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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
China and US seal spy plane deal
US EP-3 surveillance plane, grounded on Hainan Island since 1 April
The spy plane incident sparked a serious diplomatic dispute
China and the United States have agreed on the technical details of how to dismantle and repatriate the US spy plane stranded in Chinese territory, officials said on Thursday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said all outstanding issues blocking the return of the US Navy's EP-3 surveillance plane had been resolved, but did not give details.

"Both sides reached an agreement on the technical arrangement," he said.


We hope bilateral relations can come back to the normal track

Sun Yuxi
A US embassy spokesman also confirmed the deal, but declined to give details.

The long-simmering row began in April when the spy plane was involved in a collision in which a Chinese pilot died.

The incident sparked a serious diplomatic spat between the two countries, and it was 11 days before the 24-member crew of the US spy plane was allowed to return home.

The stand-off over the crew ended only after Washington said it was "very sorry" that the Chinese pilot had died and the plane had landed without permission.

Shipped in pieces

Beijing said it hoped this would bring relations back on track with the US.

Preparations have begun and US personnel were expected to travel to Hainan, Mr Sun said.

US crew member from spy plane
The crew were held for 11 days
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said on Tuesday that the talks had centred on loading the aircraft in pieces on a giant Antonov-124 cargo plane.

The AN-124, the world's largest cargo plane, is made both in the Ukraine and Russia and used commercially.

US technicians who inspected the spy plane last month had said that it could be made air worthy, and Washington had tried to push Beijing to let the aircraft be repaired and flown out.

But Beijing - which has been angered by American spy flights near its coast - had said that allowing the plane to fly from its territory would have been a national humiliation.

The four-member negotiating team from the US had arrived in China last week to work out a deal.


Key stories:

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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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