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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Spy plane might not fly home
US EP-3 surveillance plane, grounded on Hainan Island since 1 April
Civilian engineers said the plane could be repaired
The US spy plane held in China since a collision with a Chinese fighter jet may have to return home in crates, US Vice-President Dick Cheney has said.

"My guess is that it may well have to be crated out, partly because it's in bad shape," he told NBC television's Meet the Press programme.


The airplane will be returned. There have been negotiations under way

Dick Cheney,
US vice-president
A group of technicians from the company that made the plane said after inspecting it this month that it could be repaired and flown back to the US.

Mr Cheney said he had no doubt that China would hand the plane back to Washington.

"The airplane will be returned. There have been negotiations under way," he said.

Collision

The EP-3 surveillance plane has been detained on Hainan Island since a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter jet on 1 April.

The US State Department is currently in talks with the Chinese over the return of the spy plane.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney
Mr Cheney said the plane was "in bad shape"
Officials have said that the easiest way to return the plane would be to repair it and fly it home.

But Beijing insists that the plane will not be allowed to fly from its territory, but should be dismantled and removed from the island by sea.

A UK-based company has said it is in talks with the US to charter a giant cargo plane to take the grounded surveillance plane from China to Okinawa, Japan, the site of a US military base.

The US has flown at least one reconnaissance flight off the Chinese coast since the incident, prompting an angry reaction from China.

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See also:

07 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
US resumes spy plane flights
04 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
US spy plane 'could fly home'
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