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The BBC's Adam Brookes
"This diplomatic incident has just been ratcheted up another very significant notch"
 real 28k

Professor Jia Qingguo, Beijing University
"The Chinese fighter plane had to perform it's duty to defend Chinese air space"
 real 28k

Richard Perle, Former US Asst Secretary of Defence
"I hope there will not be a threat and it is too soon to say if there will"
 real 28k

Paul Beaver, Jane's Defence Weekly
"The Chinese are perhaps wanting to test George Bush's resolve as a new president"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
China defies US on spy plane
The US claims the plane is sovereign territory
China has rejected US warnings to stay away from its grounded spy plane, saying officials have the right to inspect it.

Anguish is growing among relatives of the US crew
The hardening of Beijing's stance over the plane came after Chinese President Jiang Zemin said the United States must "bear full responsibility" for the collision on Sunday between a Chinese fighter jet and the spy plane.

American diplomats are anxiously awaiting access to the 24 stranded crew of the US Navy surveillance plane which made an emergency landing near Lingshui on China's southern island of Hainan following the clash.

China has accused the US plane of ramming its aircraft, but the US says it was probably an accident caused by the Chinese plane.

US concern

According to US officials, the last message from the crew said Chinese soldiers were boarding the EP-3 plane, which is packed with sensitive monitoring equipment.

If this plane is sovereign American territory, how did it land in China?

Chinese Foreign Ministry
US President George W Bush has called on China to release the plane "without further tampering".

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said on Tuesday: "Based on Chinese law, and international practice, we have the right to conduct an investigation."

Mocking the American claim that the plane is protected by international law from outside inspection without US permission, Mr Zhu smiled and said: "If this plane is sovereign American territory, how did it land in China?"

Defence analyst Paul Beaver of the Jane's Information Group said it would be catastrophic for the US "if the Chinese have managed to gain access to the aircraft and if they've managed to obtain access to the computers and the hard disks".

China has offered to let American officials meet the crew on Tuesday night local time, but Washington says that is not soon enough.

Mr Bush said he was "troubled by the lack of a timely Chinese response" to US requests for access.

Strained relations

US military attache General Neal Sealock and an official from the US consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou left Sanya, a resort town near Lingshui, for Haikou, capital of Hainan province, earlier on Tuesday.

The dispute - a major foreign policy test for the new US administration - has further strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

Ties have already been soured by a possible sale of US arms to Taiwan and other contentious issues.

China-US tensions
Possible US arms sales to Taiwan
US plans for 'star wars' arms shield
Two Chinese American academics detained on mainland China
Defection of senior Chinese army officer to US

The search for the missing Chinese pilot, who reportedly parachuted from his plane, is continuing.

There have been angry denunciations of US policy on Chinese internet bulletin boards, with comparisons made to Nato's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

Although the Chinese have said the spy plane's crew are safe and well, concern is growing among relatives.

Staff at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington state where the crew is based tied yellow ribbons in honour of the crew members.

Tom Crandall, whose son Jeremy is among those detained, said: "I'm a nervous wreck. I'm quivering. My knees are shaking.

"What I'm worried about is what are they doing to him now? Are they interrogating him? Are they beating him?"

The US has ordered three of its warships in the South China Sea region to move out of the area after Chinese officials ignored their requests to help with the search for the missing Chinese pilot.

Experts say run-ins between Chinese and US aircraft are quite common along the Chinese coast, although it was the first time an aircraft had made an emergency landing.

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See also:

02 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Inside the US spy plane
02 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Strained US-China ties
22 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Tension in US-China talks
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests another US academic
23 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Key Chinese army officer defects
03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China and US in test of wills
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