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The BBC's Rob Watson
"Certainly these are tense times between the US and China"
 real 56k

Atlantic Council of the US's director Bonnie Coe
"There is nothing to be gained by suspending talks with the Chinese"
 real 56k

Rear Admiral Craig Quigley
"This was an honest misinterpretation"
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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Pentagon 'blunder' on China ties
Aerial view of US spy plane grounded on Hainan Island
China has refused to return the spy plane
The United States has revoked a decision to suspend all military ties with China, in a move widely seen as an embarrassing blunder.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said the initial order - released to the media only two hours earlier - was a mistake, based on a misinterpretation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's intentions.

The memo called for a suspension of the programme until further notice - that is not his [Rumsfeld's] intention

Rear Admiral Craig Quigley
The newspaper of China's Communist Party, the People's Daily, has meanwhile published a strongly worded personal attack on President George W Bush.

In the latest sign of deteriorating Sino-US relations, an article in the paper's Thursday edition accused Mr Bush of being egotistical and driven by a personal desire for attention.

The paper said this desire not to be seen as a weak president lay behind his decisions to sell weapons to Taiwan, to push ahead with building a missile defence system and his handling of the spy plane crisis with China.

When the US suspension order was announced, it was taken to be a response to Beijing's continuing refusal to hand over a US spy plane grounded on Hainan Island since 1 April.

Admiral Quigley said Mr Rumsfeld had in fact ordered a review of all contacts and activities with the Chinese military on a case-by-case basis, but one of his aides misunderstood him.

Despite official assurances, the BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington says that it is still unclear whether the rescinded order was just an administrative error.

Mistake unnoticed

The suspension would have affected contacts like port visits by warships and visits by military officials. These will now be reviewed on an individual basis.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld: Case-by-case review
Admiral Quigley told the BBC that China had never been notified of the suspension order, which was ordered in a detailed memo issued on Monday.

In the memo, Mr Rumsfeld ordered "the suspension of all Department of Defence programmes, contacts and activities with the People's Republic of China until further notice."

It also banned Pentagon contacts with Chinese officials in Washington.

Admiral Quigley was unable to explain how the mistake went unnoticed for two days. He later said a corrected version would be sent to clarify that there had not been any suspension of military ties.

Delicate relations

The latest confusion comes at a delicate moment in Sino-US relations.

American civil technicians have been allowed to examine the spy plane on Hainan Island - which was forced to land after a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter jet.

But previously, there was a tense stand off between Washington and Beijing, as the Chinese authorities held the 24-member American crew for 11 days, demanding that the US accept the blame for the accident.

China has not yet given permission for the aircraft to be taken back to the US.

Relations between the two countries have come under increasing strain since President George W Bush was inaugurated in January.

The Chinese government has been silent in recent days about its relationship with Washington, with some analysts saying that Beijing is still waiting to see what direction the relationship is going to take.

But our Beijing correspondent, Adam Brookes, says the editorial in the The People's Daily is a clear sign of the gathering anger in Beijing.

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See also:

01 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Spy plane recovery team arrive
02 May 01 | Americas
US rejects 'Made in China' berets
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