Tags: Americans | Arrive | China | Get | Plane

Americans Arrive in China to Get Plane

Tuesday, 17 April 2001 12:00 AM

The team is headed by the Pentagon's Peter F. Verga, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy support, and includes Army Brig. Gen. Neal Sealock, a defense attaché at the U.S. embassy who led the diplomatic effort to free the 24-member crew last week.

The United States plans to inform China that surveillance flights along the Chinese coast will resume soon and that it expects Beijing to tell its pilots to back off, CNN reported early Tuesday.

The U.S. team will also attempt to win the release of the $80 million surveillance plane, which is not flyable. It would need substantial repairs by U.S. mechanics or would be shipped out of Hainan, provided the Chinese release the plane.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said unequivocally that the United States wanted the plane back.

"The EP-3 aircraft is United States property. It was worth in excess of $80 million. As the president has indicated from the outset ... that subject will be front and center at the April 18th meetings, just as it has been every single day since the crew landed in China," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon press conference Monday.

The team will also present the United States' insistence on the truth of what happened over the South China Sea on April 1, when a Chinese F-8 collided with the EP-3. The F-8 fighter was cut in half by the accident, and the EP-3 was heavily damaged and sent into a steep and dangerous dive. The pilot was able to wrest control of the plane and make an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the crew was held for 11 days.

It is the U.S. view that the accident was China's fault, as the F-8 was "maneuvering aggressively," coming within 10 feet of the aircraft on two passes and colliding on the third. China has never apologized.

China has claimed since the beginning that the fault lay with the U.S. EP-3, a larger and slower plane - a story Rumsfeld contradicted last week.

"For 12 days, one side of the story has been presented," he said. "You know, ultimately the truth comes out, and notwithstanding efforts to the contrary, the reality is that what actually happens in life ultimately is known. And now is the time to begin that process. Clearly, that this will be presented again on the 18th in the meeting, and it will be discussed widely. And I think it's important for the world to understand exactly what happened so that they can take that into account in their calibrations."

Verga and Sealock will also try to hammer out an agreement with the Chinese about how to handle such incidents in the future, according to the Pentagon.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The team is headed by the Pentagon's Peter F. Verga, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy support, and includes Army Brig. Gen. Neal Sealock, a defense attaché at the U.S. embassy who led the diplomatic effort to free the 24-member crew last week. The United...
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2001-00-17
Tuesday, 17 April 2001 12:00 AM
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