Late Saturday night in Washington, Sunday morning in
China, a United States naval maritime patrol aircraft on a routine
surveillance mission in international airspace over the South China
Sea collided with one of two Chinese fighters that were shadowing our
plane. Both our aircraft and a Chinese aircraft were damaged in the
collision. Our aircraft made an emergency landing at an airfield on
China's Hainan Island.
We have been in contact with the Chinese government about this
incident since Saturday night. From our own information, we know that
the United States naval plane landed safely. Our embassy in Beijing
has been told by the Chinese government that all 24 crew members are
Our priorities are the prompt and safe return of the crew and the
return of the aircraft without further damaging or tampering. The
first step should be immediate access by our embassy personnel to our
crew members. I am troubled by the lack of a timely Chinese response
to our request for this access.
Our embassy officials are on the ground and prepared to visit the crew
and aircraft as soon as the Chinese government allows them to do so.
And I call on the Chinese government to grant this access promptly.
Failure of the Chinese government to react promptly to our request is
inconsistent with standard diplomatic practice and with the expressed
desire of both our countries for better relations.
Finally, we have offered to provide search and rescue assistance to
help the Chinese government locate its missing aircraft and pilot. Our
military stands ready to help.
Thank you very much.
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