Tags: Bush: | U.S. | Will | Get | Tough | With | China

Bush: U.S. Will Get Tough With China

Thursday, 12 April 2001 12:00 AM

Meanwhile, the 24 American service members held hostage by China for 11 days returned safely to the U.S.

Speaking at the White House Rose Garden, Bush said the U.S. "did nothing to cause the accident" between a U.S. EP-3 plane and a Chinese F-8 fighter jet over the South China Sea on April 1.

"From all the evidence we've seen, the United States aircraft was operating in international airspace in full accordance with all laws and regulations and did nothing to cause the accident."

Bush said U.S. and Chinese representatives would discuss the accident and related matters at a meeting Wednesday.

"I will ask our United States representative to ask the tough questions about China's recent practice of challenging United State aircraft operating legally in international airspace."

Bush called the standoff "inconsistent" with efforts to forge close ties with China.

"The kind of incident we have just been through does not advance a constructive relationship," Bush said.

The 24 U.S. military personnel released by the Chinese from Hainan Island arrived in Hawaii Thursday to the sound of a Navy band and a brief welcome from base officials and civilians.

The 21 men and 3 women were detained in Hainan for 11 days after their EP-3 military spy plane made an emergency landing on the island after colliding with a Chinese F-8 jet over the South China Sea on April 1.

The C-17 military transport plane, named for comedian Bob Hope, arrived at 6:20 a.m. local time (12:20 p.m. EST) as the sun was breaking over the horizon. The crew of the EP-3 filed off the aircraft led by their commander, Lt. Shane Osborn, to the applause of a crowd of about 200 civilians and military personnel.

They were welcomed by officials, including Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Thomas Fargo, Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka, and Reps. Patsy Mink and Neil Abercrombie.

"The first thing I'd like to say on behalf of the crew is we are definitely glad to be back," said Osborn, of Norfolk, Neb.

Osborn was the pilot and mission commander on the EP-3 and is widely considered the hero of the day for wrestling the severely damaged aircraft to the ground safely on Hainan after the collision.

"I want to assure all our families and loved ones … they missed you very much, and they are all healthy and ready to get home," Osborn said.

He thanked the public for its support during the past 12 days, but noted that for much of the time the crew was incommunicado and unaware of the attention they were getting in the United States.

"We obviously have some business to take care of … with that I'd like to start that process," he said, referring to the two days of debriefing facing them.

Before Osborn spoke, Fargo read a letter from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said: "You conducted yourself with honor and professionalism and held your heads high. America could not have had better representatives of the ideals we value …. You put your lives at risk in service of citizens of a grateful nation who live their lives in peace and freedom."

The crew were decorated with flower leis, the traditional Hawaiian greeting, and walked down a line of servicemen and women, while saluting and shaking hands.

The crew were taken to the base hospital for medical checks and for the debriefing, where officials said they would be asked about their treatment at the hands of the Chinese, about the accident, and about how much of the electronic equipment destruction checklist they were able to complete before they landed on the Chinese military base.

They are expected to depart for Whidbey Island, their home base in Washington, about 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Meanwhile, the 24 American service members held hostage by China for 11 days returned safely to the U.S. Speaking at the White House Rose Garden, Bush said the U.S. did nothing to cause the accident between a U.S. EP-3 plane and a Chinese F-8 fighter jet over the South...
Bush:,U.S.,Will,Get,Tough,With,China
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2001-00-12
Thursday, 12 April 2001 12:00 AM
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