U.S. officials speaking at the U.S. embassy said Thursday's session was "very productive" because Chinese officials eventually agreed to respond later to a U.S. proposal for repairing and returning the EP-3 aircraft.
The talks were almost scuttled after Washington said Beijing refused even to discuss the return of the EP-3 surveillance plane that lies crippled on China's Hainan island. China agreed to discuss the topic Thursday after an early meeting with U.S. Ambassador Joseph Prueher at the Foreign Ministry.
Later China's Foreign Ministry said the talks were "productive" and that further discussions would be arranged. The two parties will decide date and place through diplomatic channels.
During a briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry a spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, claimed she had "irrefutable evidence" that U.S. pilot caused the collision. But her "evidence" proved nothing.
Zhang claimed the "U.S. has an unshirkable responsibility" in the accident, in which the Chinese pilot was lost and presumed dead after his F-8 fighter jet crashed into the South China Sea after hitting the U.S. plane.
Three close-up photos of the EP-3 were projected, showing the damage to the wing, engine and nose cone. Zhang claimed that the damage somehow "proved beyond any doubt" the Chinese denial of responsibility. She said the U.S. presentation of evidence showing the Chinese pilot was at fault was "irresponsible."
She then showed journalists video shot from a Chinese fighter of several U.S. fighter jets flying alongside after an interception somewhere off the Chinese coast. She said the images were shot "sometime last year."
The presentation also included a computer animation, similar to one issued by the Pentagon shortly after the crash, of the two planes - except in this one the animators depicted the U.S. plane veering into the Chinese fighter.
Zhang called the Chinese evidence "just the tip of the iceberg," but refused to disclose what other "evidence" they might have.
China wants the U.S. accept blame and end its surveillance flights near Chinese territory - even as it refuses to apologize or take responsibility and continues its surveillance flights near other countries.
The Chinese, according to a senior State Department official, argued that the flights violate China's "economic zone of influence" - a definition that falls short of sovereign territory.
The Pentagon has said that the Chinese jet fighter intercepted the EP-3 70 miles off the coast of Hainan - an area that falls inside the supposed "economic zone" but outside the internationally accepted Chinese sovereign waters.
The U.S. negotiators restated that the flights would continue.
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