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The BBC's Tom Carver in Washington
"The Americans are pleased with this news from Beijing"
 real 56k

The BBC's David Chazan
"Chinese leaders may want to reduce the current high level of tension of the US"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Spy plane recovery team arrive
Aerial view of spy plane on Hainan Island
The US plane has been held on Hainan Island
An American inspection team has arrived in southern China to examine the crippled United States spy plane, held since it collided with a Chinese fighter on 1 April.


I see it as an encouraging sign that they are willing to proceed. We'll go in and inspect

Dick Cheney
The Chinese authorities have only now granted permission for a US team to visit, despite repeated demands that the spy plane be returned.

US officials say the Chinese have taken a long, hard look at the sensitive electronic intelligence-gathering equipment aboard the plane and now have no further use for it.

The technicians will now decide the best way to get the damaged aircraft back to the United States.

The $80m plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island after the collision.


Having completed its investigation... and in view of international precedents in handling such issues, the Chinese side has decided to allow the US side to inspect its plane

Xinhua, official Chinese news agency
Its 24 crew members were held by China for 11 days, and were released only after the US said it was "very sorry" for the loss of the Chinese pilot in the incident.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney said the Chinese invitation to visit the plane was an "encouraging sign".

BBC Beijing correspondent Adam Brookes says US access will be a big step forward in finally resolving the crisis.

But he says the damage done to US-China relations will be felt for some time to come.

"Having completed its investigation and evidence collection involving the US plane, and in view of international precedents in handling such issues, the Chinese side has decided to allow the US side to inspect its plane at the Lingshui Airport," the official Chinese Xinhua news agency reported.

Further negotiations

The report made no mention of any intention to return the plane, but said that during recent talks in Beijing, Washington had agreed to consider making payments to China.

Crew returns home
The crew were held for 11 days before their release
"The two sides will conduct another round of negotiations on the specific amount of the US payment and the items to be covered," Xinhua said.

However, Mr Cheney denied that the US had agreed to pay for anything except the cost of transporting the plane back to the US.

Secrets lost

Washington demanded the return of the plane immediately after the collision, but China insisted it had the right to investigate the incident further.

US officials subsequently said crew members had destroyed much of the plane's surveillance equipment and erased sensitive data soon after landing.

But last Thursday, the Pentagon acknowledged that some secrets were lost from the spy plane.

And Mr Cheney said that US officials did not know exactly what the Chinese were able to obtain.

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See also:

19 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Productive' spy plane talks
06 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China protects vital interests
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