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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 04:33 GMT 05:33 UK
US insists on spy plane return
US EP-3 surveillance plane, grounded on Hainan Island since 1 April
US technicians say the spy plane could be repaired
The United States has again called for the prompt return of its surveillance plane, detained on a southern Chinese island since a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter jet on 1 April.

With the row over the spy plane rumbling on, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We are interested in the fastest return of the plane. We think that is in China's interest as well as ours."


China has constantly opposed US spy flights off China's coast and will continue to lodge serious representations with the United States on the resumption of such flights

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sun Yuxi
Chinese officials have said that it is "impossible" for the plane to fly off Hainan Island, where it has been stranded, However, a US technical inspection team that was allowed access to the plane reported back on Saturday that it would be air-worthy after some repairs.

On Tuesday, China reacted angrily to the resumption of US surveillance flights along its coast for the first time since the collision.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying that China would urge Washington to "correct such wrongdoings."

Official complaint

"China has constantly opposed US spy flights off China's coast and will continue to lodge serious representations with the United States on the resumption of such flights," Mr Sun said.


They made clear that they object to the flights and we made equally clear that these are flights that are conducted as part of US national and regional security efforts

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
The State Department acknowledged that Beijing had lodged an official complaint over the surveillance flights with the US embassy in Beijing.

"They made clear that they object to the flights and we made equally clear that these are flights that are conducted as part of US national and regional security efforts and we would expect to continue them on that basis in international airspace," Mr Boucher said.

Diplomatic row

The collision at the beginning of April sparked a serious diplomatic dispute between the two countries, which deepened with disagreements over US arms sales to Taiwan and Washington's plans to develop a missile defence shield.

A Pentagon official disclosed on Monday that an unarmed RC-135 surveillance plane had taken off from Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and flown along a routine route close to the northern portion of China's coastline.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has repeatedly said that US believed in its "prerogative and right to fly over international air space to preserve the peace by flying reconnaissance missions".

China views such flights as provocative and damaging to its national security, and argues they may be illegal under international conventions.

The BBC Beijing correspondent says their resumption after a month's suspension is further evidence that the Bush administration is adopting a more confrontational stance towards China.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Brookes
"China argues the flights are provocative"
The BBC's Tom Carver in Washington
"The US did not want to look weak or capitulate to Chinese pressure"
Former US defence official Lawrence Korb
"These surveillance flights can give a good handle to what is going on"
Prof Feng Cheng Bo of Nankai University
"The cold war way of thinking did not disappear in the US"

Key stories:

Analysis

Spy plane row

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See also:

07 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
03 May 01 | Americas
03 May 01 | Americas
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