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The BBC's Jeremy Vine
"China is not happy with the robust approach of the United States"
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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 22:07 GMT 23:07 UK
Tough stance ahead of spy plane talks
A crew member returning home
The American crew were given a heroes' welcome
China and the United States are hardening their positions over the spy plane dispute on the eve of crucial talks that could influence relations between the two countries.

Teams of US and Chinese negotiators are about to begin talks in Beijing on the aftermath of the mid-air collision, which caused a serious diplomatic between the two sides.

On Tuesday, a US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the talks would largely focus on US demands for the return of its EP-3 surveillance aircraft.

We've made it quite clear we're looking for Chinese seriousness in addressing these issues

Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman

"We want our airplane back...we're going to make that point. And we would expect a response," Mr Boucher said.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan island following the 1 April incident over the South China Sea.

'Tough questions'

China says it will not return the plane until an investigation into the incident has been completed.

US President George W Bush says he is hoping for constructive talks but has instructed the US delegation to ask tough questions about the incident, his spokesman said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president had instructed the team to ask "tough questions" about what Washington describes as Chinese harassment of its surveillance flights.

The US says Chinese pilot Wang Wei carried out aggressive tactics
China has made it clear it wants an end to the American reconnaissance flights, which have been suspended since the incident, but US officials said flights could resume as early as Thursday.

The BBC's world affairs correspondent Nick Childs, says the Bush administration is likely to base its decision on when and how to resume its surveillance flights - including whether or not to provide fighter escorts in future - on how the talks go.

Each side has a very different view of what happened in the mid-air collision.


On Tuesday, China reaffirmed its version that it was the US plane that caused the collision and repeated the Chinese accusation that the US plane landed on Hainin without permission.

"We can call these a series of actions by the US side, which violated international law and the internal laws of our country," the Chinese spokesman said.

The US, however, says it believes the accident was caused by the aggressive tactics of the Chinese pilot.

Crew members aboard the US plane said the Chinese jet flew so close it clipped one of their propellers.

The 24-member crew of the spy plane returned home to a heroes' welcome after being held on Hainan Island by China for 11 days.

They were released after the US said they were "very sorry" that the Chinese pilot had been lost, and that permission had not been granted to land in China.

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