At a news conference Friday on Capitol Hill, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the
chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters: "We're
moving towards a letter that will contain exchanges of views, first at the
level of the ambassador and the foreign minister, but that letter is being
reviewed both by our president and the president of China. So it will
reflect a common understanding."
The letter could go a long way toward securing the release of the 24 crew
members of the EP-3 surveillance plane forced to land six
days ago on the island of Hainan.
Warner told reporters an apology to the Chinese for the collision would
not be incorporated into the letter, although State Department officials
have said an earlier letter from Powell to Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen
did include an expression of regret.
Warner said that Chinese and U.S. diplomats will establish a
meeting framework, consistent with the letter, for an exchange of
explanations of the event between experts.
"There will be established some
type of meeting framework, contemporaneous with the letter, and that
framework will enable the experts, those most knowledgeable about aircraft
and other matters, to sit down and assess the facts. And at that time,
hopefully, we can indeed – the United States, China and the world – get a
better understanding of this accident, which involved, regrettably, a loss
of life," Warner said.
Warner said this meeting would be "military to military" and "build
on some progress" of prior meetings with China on a future understanding of
surveillance issues "to avoid the type of accident we've just experienced."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher would not comment on the
senator's remarks, but did not deny whether such a meeting was in the
"I don't think it's in our interest at this stage in the discussions to
start specifying one way of having these discussions or another."
But Boucher did leave open the possibility that the military maritime
consultative agreement, a pact that establishes a panel between the United
States and China to discuss such matters, could address this issue in their
meeting later this month in San Francisco.
"This commission exists, it has regular meetings; I suppose it could have
other meetings. I suppose other things could be set up," Boucher said.
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