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The BBC's Brian Hanrahan
"China appears to have hardened its demand for an end to US spy flights"
 real 56k

Jonathan Mirsky, writer and broadcaster on China
"I do not think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel"
 real 56k

James Lilley, former US ambassador in Beijing
"They have got to come up with something soon"
 real 28k

Monday, 9 April, 2001, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
US spy crew 'in excellent health'
Anti-US billboard at Hainan University
"Strongly oppose America's disgusting conduct," reads a billboard
United States diplomats have held a fourth meeting with the crew of the American spy plane being held in southern China and say they are being well cared for.

The US embassy in Beijing says diplomats were allowed to meet all 24 of the crew this time, in contrast to their meeting on Sunday, when they were given access to only eight of them.


The US Government should... immediately stop all military surveillance activities off the Chinese coast

Liberation Army Daily

Publicly, China is still insisting that Washington must take full responsibility and apologise for last week's collision between the US plane and a Chinese fighter jet.

In his latest comments, President George W Bush has said that, although "diplomacy takes time", relations with China could be damaged unless the crew is soon freed.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing, says behind-the-scenes negotiations are going on over the wording of a joint document that could be the key to ending the nine-day crisis.

The US ambassador in China says progress is being made.

President Bush
President Bush: "diplomatic channels are open"
After meeting the crew, US Defence Attache General Neal Sealock, said they were in excellent health, had been receiving e-mails and were in "extremely high spirits."

Gesture

Despite US insistence that it has no plans to apologise, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared to make a concession on Sunday - he used the word "sorry" when referring to the loss of the Chinese fighter pilot, Wang Wei.

In what has been described by Washington as a humanitarian gesture, President Bush sent a personal letter to the wife of the pilot killed in the mid-air collision.

But on Monday, Mr Bush signalled Washington's growing impatience, renewing his call for the crew to be released.

"Every day that goes by increases the potential that our relations with China will be damaged," Mr Bush told reporters.

"We're working behind the scenes, we've got every diplomatic channel open, we're in discussions with the Chinese," he said.

Nine-day standoff
1 April: Collision forces US spy plane to land on Hainan Island. Chinese fighter plane lost.
2 April: President Bush demands access to the plane
3 April: Beijing demands full apology
4 April: Bush says he will not apologise
5 April: Bush expresses regret over incident
7 April: China's vice-premier says US response is "unacceptable"
8 April: US vice-president again insists there will be no apology
9 April: China reiterates demand for apology

Tough line

As the standoff continues, the BBC's Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur says US legislators are now openly referring to the 24 crew members as "hostages".

Our correspondent says Republicans in particular are taking an increasingly tough line, arguing that a link should be made between China's actions and two key bilateral issues - the question of new US arms sales to Taiwan and the status of China's trade relations with Washington.

Certain sectors in China also appear to be hardening their position.

The Liberation Army Daily, published by the Chinese military, has demanded an end to spy flights near China's coast.

"China has the right to fully and thoroughly investigate this entire incident, including the American military aircraft and the people in charge of it," said the newspaper.

The 24 crew members of the American EP-3 surveillance plane have been in custody since they were forced to perform an emergency landing on the island of Hainan.

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See also:

09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan presses for US arms sales
07 Apr 01 | Americas
Analysis: Bush's foreign policy
06 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China protects vital interests
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests another US academic
08 Apr 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
A Cold War in paradise
09 Apr 01 | Media reports
Bush 'can break impasse'
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