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Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
China maintains hard line on spy plane
Crew member with relative
The US crew members were greeted one by one
As crew members of the US spy plane celebrated their return home, Chinese state-run media have continued to insist that they were to blame for the mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter plane.

"The responsibility is completely on the US side," said a front page article in the People's Daily.


(The US crew) were causing trouble in front of China's home. Their actions were completely provocative, full of hostility

Liberation Daily
The report came after the 24 crew members had received a heroes' welcome at their home base in Washington State, after being held for 11 days on Hainan island.

US Navy Lieutenant Shane Osborn, the plane's pilot, told reporters they had done everything by the book and had no need to apologise.

US and Chinese representatives are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the incident and US demands for the plane to be returned.

Tough talk

But both sides have insisted they did nothing wrong, setting the scene for some tough exchanges.

Lieutenant Shane Osborn, pilot of the US Navy surveillance plane
Shane Osborn: "We were not to blame"
The Liberation Army Daily, which correspondents say reflects the opinion of China's powerful military, maintained its hard line stance.

The newspaper warned that, if the US did not stop reconnaissance activity along China's coast, other incidents could happen which would harm relations.

"(The US crew) were causing trouble in front of China's home. Their actions were completely provocative, full of hostility. How could they say it is a routine mission?"

But amid its tough comments, the newspaper also recognised the importance of good bilateral relations, which it said were conducive to world peace, stability and prosperity.


I am here to tell you we did it right...There are no apologies necessary on our part.

Lieutenant Shane Osborn, US pilot
And a senior Chinese trade official has urged the US Congress not to link the spy plane row with an upcoming vote on renewing China's normal trade relations status.

"China doesn't wish to fight a trade war with any country," said trade ministry spokesman Gao Yan.

During the crisis, several members of the US Congress suggested a June vote on China's trading status could be used to punish China for its delay in releasing the crew.

Homecoming

The 21 men and three women were allowed to go home after statements of regret by Washington.

Thousands of people gathered at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, north of Seattle, to welcome them back on Saturday.

Before the crew left Hawaii, where they had been debriefed, Lieutenant Osborn described the mid-air collision as an accident but said the Chinese pilot had flown dangerously close.

Lieutenant Osborn said the Chinese who detained the crew were polite and respectful, but added that he and his compatriots had undergone unpleasant interrogations.

Wang Wei shown with his wife and son
Wang Wei: From family man to revolutionary hero

Beijing has hailed Wang Wei, the pilot of its F-8 jet, who is missing presumed dead, as a martyr.

From the outset, China demanded that Washington accept blame for the collision and apologise, but President George W Bush has refused to do so.

Instead, the US said it was "very sorry" about the loss of the Chinese pilot and "very sorry" the surveillance plane did not obtain permission before landing on Chinese territory.

China found the formula adequate to allow the crew to be released on 11 April.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Simpson in Whidbey Naval Base
"One by one the crew disembarked"
The BBC's Rob Watson
"After the official celebrations were over, the crew were whisked away"

Key stories:

Analysis

Spy plane row

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See also:

15 Apr 01 | Americas
13 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
13 Apr 01 | Americas
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