Tags: China | Defies | Plane | Agreement

China Defies Plane Agreement

Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM

"We are trying again to clearly explain the technical support we need to do a thorough assessment," said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley.

Quigley said the U.S. Embassy thought it had arranged for power and other technical support for the team at Lingshui military air base on Hainan. The team's workday was cut short by the lack of power.

"As has been our experience recently, is it not at all clear there is a good flow from one part of the Chinese government to another," Quigley said.

"We were hopeful yesterday would have been a full day."

Five contractors from Lockheed Martin will remain on Hainan Island for an unanticipated third day to determine whether the EP-3E aircraft is repairable, and then make recommendations as to how it can be returned to the United States, according to Quigley. The team was scheduled to return Thursday night.

Quigley said the assessment team needed another full day with the aircraft to complete its work, provided it gets the power.

The U.S. reconnaissance plane collided with the Chinese fighter jet on April 1 over international waters and made an emergency landing on Hainan.

China initially agreed to only two days of examinations by the team, but it was delayed by Chinese customs officials when it arrived Wednesday. Chinese customs officers objected to the team carrying two satellite phones with them, one of them a secure phone used by government officials for top-secret communications.

The United States took the phones from the contractors and locked them on the small jet in which they traveled to China.

Quigley said that because the workers had no means of communicating with U.S. officials in secret, "they will choose their words carefully."

The team had only three hours with the plane Thursday, just enough to conduct a structural review of the aircraft. Because the People's Liberation Army navy refused to provide power, the team could not turn on the aircraft's electrical systems to see whether they still worked.

The South China Morning Post reported Thursday that China will demand compensation from the United States when the two sides meet again to discuss how to resolve the fallout following the April 1 accident.

Quoting official sources in Beijing, the Hong Kong newspaper said the Chinese side would argue that the United States should pay compensation and will cite the May 1999 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by U.S.-led NATO forces as a precedent.

Three Chinese journalists were killed in the bombing.

U.S. officials have stated that Washington will not pay any compensation to China for the plane incident - caused by a hotdogging Chinese fighter pilot.

The same position was repeated on Tuesday by newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly in testimony to the subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"There will be no reparations, no payments," he said, adding that Washington would only consider meeting the cost of transporting the EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft from Hainan Island.

The Chinese sources declined to reveal how much money Beijing would be seeking, but said Chinese negotiators would take the 1999 accidental bombing as a reference point. In January 2001, the U.S. government agreed to pay $28 million to cover some of the reconstruction costs of the destroyed Chinese Embassy, but Washington has refused to term the payment as compensation.

The Chinese sources added that each family of the three Chinese journalists killed in Belgrade had received $1.5 million as "humanitarian assistance" from an American fund. This was never counted as part of the compensation by the United States.

One Beijing source said the issue of compensation would have a direct bearing on the decision on when to return the damaged aircraft to the United States.

The source said the Chinese leadership had been under pressure as many citizens and the military had demanded the government take a tough stance in handling the collision aftermath.

According to the source, the Chinese side expects the next round of talks to include discussion on how to proceed with the investigation of the collision as both sides have yet to agree on its cause.

In interviews last week, President Bush indicated that he would stick to his plan to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit to be held later this year in Shanghai. Analysts said this suggested there was room for both governments to settle the problem to create a better atmosphere before Bush's visit.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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We are trying again to clearly explain the technical support we need to do a thorough assessment, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley. Quigley said the U.S. Embassy thought it had arranged for power and other technical support for the team at Lingshui military...
Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM
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