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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Spy plane stand-off: What should happen next?
Tension is mounting between the US and China over the spy plane stand-off.
US President Bush has demanded the immediate release of the crew and return of the aircraft, warning China not to undermine bilateral relations by holding onto them.
But there has been no indication that China is ready to meet the demands. China insists on a public apology for the incident.
What should be done to de-escalate the situation? Whose fault is the current stand-off?
This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are posted below.
Ji Woo, Shanghai, China
People are saying that that the US should apologize because the Chinese pilot probably lost his life. Make no mistake about it, the fact that the pilot probably lost his life is tragic, but this is not what China wants an apology for. China wants the US to take responsibility and apologize for the "incident", even when there is no real evidence that the US is at fault. This is ridiculous. It is my opinion that neither China nor the US should apologize for anything until some sort of concrete evidence can be found, which shows which side is at fault. Believe me, the US is sorry about the death of the Chinese pilot, but it cannot apologize for something that is very easily not its fault.
Considering the nature of relations that exist between US and China, it is obvious that the Chinese would keep the plane for investigations. It is a SPY PLANE! I am 100% sure that if the situation was contrary, US would also want to keep the plane to investigate deeply.
US should bomb China in to stone age as it did in Iraq and declare southern China a no fly zone. That will stop the Chinese from interfering with US planes.
This is in response to Jack Hutchens and his silly, ignorant comments. First of all, and this is something some of the other writers in this forum need to digest, the US plane was not over China. It was in international waters. It could have been five minutes or five hundred miles from Chinese waters. It doesn't matter folks. These flights are not only routine, but also completely legal. So Mr. Hutchens, your comment about China not flying spy planes over California is not relevant at all.
But it was his fault mummy *stomp* I wont apologise, I wont! He started it not me!
Bruce, Long Beach Ca.
Granted there is a degree of arrogance that goes with being the lead watchdog of world peace and security. So then if not the United States then who? England? We all know their history. They defined arrogance. France? Italy? Germany? Yeah right. How about Canada? They're always claiming how much better they do things than Americans. Go for it Canada. You take over the reigns of world security for a while. Or perhaps we should just cut to the chase and recognize China as the new superpower overseeing the security peace and freedom of the whole world. Would that be acceptable? Because frankly as an American I am fed up with the role we have been forced into since WW2.
No one has yet questioned why the "accident" happened. With all the advanced technology that both nations have, it is disgraceful that the incident happened.
S. Hyman Schwartz, Waco, Texas
I think this standoff is outrageous. If a Chinese plane had to make a emergency landing in 'say' Hawaii, I bet it's crew would be back in China in one or two days. This has gone on for nine and how many more? If the Chinese want an apology they should start with themselves. If a cruise ship and a speedboat collide, you don't blame the cruise ship. It's obvious who is to blame, and I think Bush needs to deliver an ultimatum. Give us back our people or else!
The US deserves more than this for causing pain and suffering worldwide. More will come your way. God is watching.
Can't the politicians focus their energies on providing a better life to their people rather than fighting petty ego battles? Whether the countries are developed or developing, the majority of the people are suffering. Do something about them first, then engage in spying and military build up!
Flavio Martinez, Los Angeles, USA
Let's not lose sight of the big picture. The Chinese are utilizing this incident to test the new American administration. Bush has successfully re-ignited cold-war sentiment and the Chinese feel the need to be chesty. Is it me or does it feel like 1985 again? I wish the American service people Godspeed in coming home and I pray for the woman who lost her husband and her family. Those people are the innocent chips in a very sophisticated worldly game.
V Sathya Vagheeswar, Cincinnati, USA
All countries, to the extent of their resources, gather information about their potential adversaries. If China had the means, their planes would cruise off the U.S. coast doing the same thing as the American aircraft in question. These activities are understood by realistic people of all nationalities. It takes a total fruitcake to believe that the US pilot would risk the plane and crew by intentionally manoeuvring towards the Chinese fighter. Similarly, the Chinese pilot wouldn't have intended to cause a crash, but he got too close and paid for his indiscretion with his life.
Mark Colburn, Manchester, UK
Since when did the Chinese government start caring about its citizen? They are just using the missing pilot as a propaganda piece to whip up its citizenry.
Spy planes are a fact of life, remember the Russians flying down the East coast of the UK and RAF/US fighter aircraft being launched to head them of? There is no way that a pilot of a lumbering spy plane would try to hit another aircraft so jeopardising his life and that of his crew. Fighter pilots are trained in close quarter manoeuvres, have you seen the Red Arrows? So it would seem that this Chinese pilot tried to "buzz" the US plane and misjudged it. It was just an accident but the Chinese are trying to make an incident out of it. Keep up the good work USA and carry on spying
Simple. China gives back the pilots, but keeps the plane. The arrogant US cannot argue with that.
I used to be very much in favour of stronger ties with the US as opposed to tighter integration with Europe. This crisis shows how wrong I was.
J.L., Toronto, Canada
In what way should President Bush apologise when the US has done nothing wrong? Spying on China is certainly justified as it is important to gather any information which can be used to preserve peace. Unfortunate accidents can and do occur when forces conduct operations in close quarters, which is hardly cause for apologies. It is wrong to appease dictatorships to release hostages through false apologies.
I realise that it is fashionable to criticise the US, but it is disheartening to consistently see US-bashing whilst she continues to fight for world peace. The US is not perfect, but how can anyone disagree that the world is not a safer place with a superpower with the disposition of the US at the helm? It would be nice to see some support for what we are doing, just as we heartily support all the UK and the rest of Nato does to help provide a more peaceful 21st century than the 20th century.
I have seen a lot of comments mentioning the fact that the US interests in other countries is only a good thing, and prevents take-overs by dictators.
So if that is true, why is Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq. It was the US who supported his war on Iran in the early 80's, and now look at what's happened there.
The recent escalation of the rhetoric between USA and China over the spy plane incident is just one of the many manifestations of a new era in power balancing.
The world cannot and will not accept one predominant leading nation.
The world in an effort to reach a new power balance, will allow the development of other alternatives one of which is China and a second one is a New Europe.
The USA must be able to understand these natural phenomena, come to terms with the escalating efforts of selective nations or group of nations aiming at reducing its present unchallenged domination.
CY, Hong Kong
I am wondering why so many folks
are taking the Chinese version of this incident as gospel.
I would think that the US crew would be
able to shed some light on the incident,
as they were at the point of contact.
Why would the US apologise
before the "investigations" are even
China does not currently have the means to use the same high-tech spying methods employed by the US.
This is not a good reason to try to prevent the US watching the current military build-up on the Chinese coast which threatens her neighbours.
Would the police in any neighbourhood ignore and simply turn a blind eye to a house full of gun toting men simply because they felt their privacy was threatened?
The crew are not detainees! They are HOSTAGES in an ongoing political-economic WAR with China.
Say whatever is necessary to get them out and continue to do whatever is in the best interests of the US.
The US has been flying this type of recon mission off the China coast since 1950. Why are we still using this old method? Don't we have satellites that can see and hear all parts of the globe? Wouldn't it be better to gather intelligence from a distance than provoke a misguided response as in this case? Obviously the Chinese fighter got too close. Don't give them an apology, but do rethink this method of intelligence gathering.
Too much time has been wasted on who is right and who is wrong. While we cannot undue what has taken place, we can at least take back what is ours....
I have read quite a bit on this page about American "arrogance". I suggest that Bush demonstrate American humbleness by bringing the fleets and the troops ALL home. Then when the Chinese decide to flex their muscles by closing the South China Sea, and Saddam Hussein takes control of a large portion of the world oil, the world can comfort itself with the thought that at least those "arrogant Americans" aren't pushing them around anymore.
andy hill, Racine, USA
It's interesting to see that America looks at China as a super power. Don't forget, China is still a developing country, they have millions of people to feed, that alone will cost them billions of dollars, how in the world can they find the money to start an arms race?
I am still waiting for an apology from China. I believe that China should release the American hostages without hesitation. What is their reason for detaining them? Perhaps we should shoot down a Chinese plane, rescue the airmen then detain them here until our men are released.
Mark Y, California USA
I think President Bush and Secretary Powell's expression of regret over the loss of the Chinese pilot and plane is more than enough. The United States is clearly not at fault in this situation. Although I am not a staunch supporter of the Bush administration, I do think that President Bush has been diligent in handling this very sensitive matter.
Carol, Houston, TX, USA
Sometimes I'm ashamed to be an American. The media stations have been going on and on about the "US spy plane" but none of them seem to reflect that maybe, just maybe, spying on another country in times of peace can be an act of provocation and carries with it some culpability.
There is clearly much doubt as to whether the US has any blame in this issue.
Accepting blame where there is no blame, and apologising without sincerity would surely not be the correct model for US/ Chinese relations.
Ron DeMuth, San Francisco, CA, USA
I think we should all just watch soccer and not worry about these stupid Chinese and very stupid Americans. Everything is done for a reason including incidents like this. So let's just all watch the Champions League.
China has the right to do whatever it wants with spies especially when one of their own is missing. Bush should not try to push the country into releasing the crew. He should be diplomatic in what he says otherwise the Chinese will not bow down to cheap politicking.
Charles Garcia, Boston, USA
The Chinese government is not a perfect government and the pilot who died may well have bumped the US plane first. However, I think all countries should spy on each another as much as possible. The more the United States knows about China and the more China knows about the United States, the better.
How does a four engine propeller driven plane "run into" a jet fighter and cause it to crash? It is like a train crashing into a car and the train being at fault. I think the US needs to send a fighter escort along with its recon planes and shoot down anything that comes near it.
It is important to point out that we will never know exactly what actually happened and whether the plane was over international waters (international airspace) or not. Perhaps the whole accident was just a decoy to lure China into trouble with the USA at an important time when sophisticated equipment is being sold to Taiwan.
Jenni, Essex, England
Spying in international waters is just as much a crime as stalking - an invasion of privacy. The US military started a chain reaction that is the proximate cause of loss of Chinese life and property. The US does have something to apologise for.
The P3 is not a 'spy' plane - it openly carries out legitimate surveillance from international airspace. For the record, so do planes from virtually every other 'effective' military, including the British. Blaming the US pilot for the collision is like blaming a wall when you walk into it - the P3 is the same size as a small airliner, versus the Chinese F8. The Chinese pilot made a mistake, and sadly died. Our thoughts should be with his family, but this in no way excuses the Chinese holding the US aircrew hostage.
If a Ferrari gets into an accident with a 18-wheeler, do we automatically assume that the Ferrari is at fault?
Anthony, London, UK/ Hong Kong
Bush should apologize, but he won't, his ego is too big for that. I just hope he doesn't do too much damage before he finally leaves office, I'm glad I live in Canada now. He cares about nothing but money and power.
Bush is wrong to demand the immediate return of the USN crew. They are spies held to account for their actions. This crisis is due to American desires to gain information advance - at Chinese expense. You cannot and must not negotiate with bullies. The only way this will de-escalate is when America apologises for the intrusion and then the Chinese should hand the people back and send the aircraft back in crates ... I am sure the Americans know that this is the right way of doing things.
I wish we still had Clinton. He could handle
such situations. Our baseball
president is only irritating the whole world with his Texas chauvinism.
They lost a plane; we damaged one. I don't think
it's too much to ask for an apology. The one is as much
at fault as the other. And we'll probably never really
know what went on up there (but I can't recall the last time I saw
Chinese planes flying along the west coast). Instead, bad Chinese
publicity will fill the airwaves to bolster Bush's cry for US justice.
America should cut its losses and forget about the plane. Perhaps next time they go spying on "undemocratic" countries, they should use the "invisible" air craft they employed over Serbia two years ago.
I believe the proper term to describe those engaged in the activities of a spy plane is "spies". What China decides to do with U.S. spies who have entered their property is up to them. Unfortunately, this is the military we are talking about and if you are a military spy, you just have to accept the risks. I certainly don't think Bush has any right to demand anything short of forgiveness.
What is it with the US military? It seems like one incident after another at the moment and apparently everyone except the US is to blame. From the ski lift accident a few years back right through to recent events in China they seem unable, or unwilling, to admit they can do wrong. They'll probably end up blaming the crash in the Scottish Highlands on the mountains themselves ... or maybe they were using an old map? Whatever the reason, it couldn't possibly be US error.
Eric Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, USA
In the mid seventies the Soviet pilot Belenko defected to Japan with a top secret Mig-25. The US took the plane apart and inspected it prior to returning it. I do not think that it is outrageous for the Chinese to do the same!
Yet another reason why Beijing does not deserve the 2008 Olympic Games. How can the world consider giving the games to a country with such a human rights record. If we do we should all be ashamed
It is just a matter of time before the US air crew is returned. Once China is satisfied that they got all they could from the aircraft it will be returned. It is in the hands of the diplomats to make the secret deals that will resolve the problem.
Bush has made the mistake of making strongly-worded demands to China's highest authority. Should China 'obey' these demands then the perception, at least in China - will be that it is willing to be bullied by the all-powerful US.
Sheer American hypocrisy, wasn't the airplane's sole purpose to spy on the Chinese airspace even if it was in international airspace? Americans should learn to stop being arrogant and just apologize for their instigation on the issue.
Michael, Pittsburgh USA
As the United State's nearest neighbour, I can't believe how belligerent the U.S has been in this fiasco. How embarrassing this must be for the Americans? If the plane is sovereign territory, then how did it end up in China? You can't help but laugh at American incompetence. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot and China was flying spy planes off the coast of California. Or, New York. The arrogance of the American administration could be well mitigated by a simple apology.
The Chinese government is just using this as an other stick to batter the USA with. They are most likely at fault since the Chinese jet would be much faster, and they may well have engineered this entire mess. They must be stood up to on this and the issue of Taiwan and Tibet, the democratic rights of these nations must be protected. Given the past experiences with the US and the Chinese both governments and have bad track records. But I trust the US a lot more than a country with no democracy, that invades its neighbours when it feels like it.
David Zhang, China
The question one should ask themselves is this one: "Why was that aircraft there to begin with?" Because a small, nearly defenseless nation that happens to be a U.S. ally is constantly bullied on a daily basis. This game of buzzing aircraft in international airspace is nothing new from the PRC Air-force ... they do it to the Taiwanese every day.
First of all, the Chinese government would love to see U.S. apologies to China because they think that they can make U.S. look like a coward country in front of all nations, plus I know that the Chinese people would like to show Russia, Iraq, and North Korea that China knows how to handle these problems better then them. China wants to show they are a superpower. They would love to steal U.S. technology and they try to do everything possible to get it.
I think the Chinese have completely dismounted the plane in order to find something interesting, and now they are taking time to fix it all back for the Americans.
Do they have the proper manual to do that?
Dave Topham, Milton Keynes, UK
I think that the situation should serve as a lesson to both sides. The Chinese government should, in a sense, understand its role in the world and its place. The US is the world's superpower, and China should acknowledge that by accepting its place. However, I do believe that the US should not be so overbearing and should not tread such a fine line with regard to the Chinese. Perhaps the Pentagon and the Pacific command should read up in their imperial history to understand how sensitive China has been (and still is) to the West's hegemony.
Of course China has every right to dissect the plane. The US and Japan have done exactly the same to USSR's MIG in 1985. The US should apologise and the incident would be over. The arrogance of Americans only serves to make the matter worse. The most probable case now is that China will examine the plane thoroughly and release the 24 airman in due course, but keep the spy plane. This makes US look very much like a bully. The traditional Chinese policy is to stand tough when the other side is adopting a tough line, as we can see from various instances in the past. China will only compromise if the other side is willing to compromise as well.
If the United States still has the ability to think coequally it could easily find that the Chinese response is acceptable. But I can hardly count on that. I can't imagine what this so-called "free nation" will give us Chinese.
People seem to be forgetting something very important here. This incident took place in international airspace. The United States Navy has every right to fly its aircraft there. The onus is on China, not the U.S., to as President Bush put it, "do the right thing".
What surprises me is the way that Bush seems to be making no efforts to hide the fact he cares more about the plane than the crew. He repeatedly states that the Chinese must not board the plane, when everyone else seems to feel the most important thing is that the crew should be safe. In fact, I think he knows that they won't be harmed by the Chinese - it's just the set-back to US intelligence he's worried about. This all seems rather silly - everyone knows that the US were spying to gain an advantage during a potential war, and the Chinese seem to be far more open in their acceptance of this fact, taking advantage of this collision to level the playing field. All's fair in love and war, no?
Reverse the positions of each party to the incident. If a Chinese plane collided with a US fighter with a resulting death, would American response differ in any substantial way? The US should state their case, then wait patiently for China to release the "detainees". The only judgment of right and wrong that counts here is world opinion, based on the facts, not political posturing or saber-rattling.
I think when one looks at the facts ... slow, lumbering American spy plane ... fast, agile Chinese fighter "jet"... one can only come to the conclusion that the American plane couldn't outmanoeuvre the Chinese plane. Thus, how can China conclude it is not at fault. Several people here have spoken of America as the aggressor. Intelligence operations are carried out around the world by many nations ... Britain included. What the American servicemen were doing was perfectly legal and acceptable and above all it was their job. And it was the Chinese pilot's job to antagonize the American plane. Unfortunately there was a miscalculation on someone's part and an accident occurred. I don't feel that any apologies are necessary, but if China continues to hold people for no reason they will be the ones to suffer due to their unreasonable actions.
I don't understand. China catches us spying on them and our guys are getting all indignant? They will just have to wait it out now. What happens if we accidentally knock down a Chinese spy plane? We don't look at it, see what's on it. Give us a break. China is acting normal. This is what people do when they catch spies. The U.S. is acting, once again, like we own the world and we can do whatever we want to, any time to anybody, and not only reuse to aplogize, but somehow take on the role of the injured party.
Again America shows the rest of the world how much it enjoys being a bully. Sometimes I'm really ashamed that I am an American. Does China have spy planes flying over California? If it did you could rest assured Bush and Co. would find a way of defending an attack on Beijing. Why doesn't America have to play by the same rules as the rest of the world?!
For the situation to be calmed either one of the sides must make a first move, this will be very hard for either party. The USA could announce that it will no longer fly spy planes near China therefore giving China the next positive step. Or China could release the American service personnel (as a good will gesture) announcing that the plane collision was due to mistakes on both sides (falling short of an apology). These options may calm the situation without either side losing face (i.e. apologising, and saving political face!).
As for the plane the 'information' on it is now the property of the Chinese republic as it is probably related to China, the plane and all the equipment should be returned to the US as soon as the Chinese have finished 'poking' around.
Albert Devakaram, Chennai, India
The Americans only emphasise the 24 crews being held in China. How about the Chinese pilot who died in the accident? They should apologize to the Chinese!
This is like two schoolyard bullies facing off. One is obviously much stronger and tougher, and the other does not want to lose face in the situation. I don't think the US will apologize, we Americans are too proud, especially Republicans (which I am glad I am not). The Chinese have every right I believe to dismantle the plane, but to ease the situation they should release the crew members, there is nothing much they can do with them, they can't interrogate as they would POW's, so why keep them? Even if they are released I believe that the US will stubbornly demand the plane to be returned. I don't see this situation "de-escalating" any time soon.
It seems that America is coming in for a fair amount of criticism, but I applaud their stance as world law enforcers. Although mistakes have and will be made, the emerging superpower of China does pose a threat to world safety and measures should be taken to prevent an incident occurring. America needs to stay one step ahead of such nations and I feel their actions are justified. It seems to me China forced the aircraft to land in their territory, forcing it out of the international airspace. China has nothing to gain by holding on to the crew, although they have a stronger case in keeping hold of the plane as no one yet seems to be able to prove who was responsible for the accident.
George W Bush and his team right from the start adopted a hawkish approach in regard to dealing with China, stating openly that it views China as a "strategic competitor". This is poor PR since the moment you name someone as your potential enemy, he bristles and becomes your enemy.
Come on people! Why should the US say sorry if everyone agrees that the spy plane was in international airspace? Do people really think a large, slow, cumbersome plane picked on a fast, sleek fighter and caused the collision - it is obvious to anyone with a neutral viewpoint who was at fault. Asking Bush to say sorry is akin to China admitting it was at fault for having its Belgrade Embassy at the wrong end of a cruise missile. I'm sorry the Chinese lost a pilot but they should grow up and give the Americans their crew back at once.
When the US airplanes bombarded the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 killing many people they claimed that it was an error of their intelligence. Well, revenge (either divine or human) is a meal that is always served cold. And in this case, China is enjoying this meal to the full.
The whole thing is very sensitive, especially with the Taiwan involvement as well. If America hadn't been flying there in the first place though it wouldn't have happened. I understand the need to gather intelligence but I hoped that as a race we were nearly past all this now. It may be naive and idealistic to ask this, but why can't we all get along? None of us are that different really.
You win some and you lose some. The Americans should adopt an adult attitude and accept that this is one that they've lost.
Bush is right to demand the immediate return of the USN crew. They are hostages held against their will.
This crisis is due to Chinese desires to gain technological advance - at US expense.
You cannot and must not negotiate with dictatorships.
The only way this will de-escalate is when China hands back the USN crew and aircraft.
Give it a few days and it will all blow over. Everyone knows that everyone spies on everyone else. The Chinese are quite understandably making the most of the opportunity to humiliate the US by making them beg to get their aircrew back. The Chinese won't harm the airmen, they just want their pound of flesh and must be seen by their domestic audience to be castigating the US for the loss of a Chinese pilot who was just doing his job.
The stand-off will last only until the Chinese have worked out how to put everything back in the plane after they've had a good look at it all.
I don't think the public will ever be in a position to know what exactly happened. It is a typical intelligence problem. International relations are mostly controlled by what we are not supposed to know, rather then what we know.
Since Bush was elected he's done nothing but antagonise the Europeans over the Kyoto Agreement and now the Chinese with his spy planes. Does he realise how much responsibility is now on his shoulders? Is the president saying sorry really such a big deal or are 24 people less important than his ego?
I think that what Bush needs is a little lesson in manners, which is clearly what China is doing here. He needs to understand that he is not president of the world answering to no one. He needs to understand that outside the borders of the US, he's just another president.
Come on China, send the men home and keep the plane. I think this would be a fair deal for everybody involved.
A Chinese pilot lost his life in the collision. It wouldn't hurt the US government to swallow its pride and apologise. China would probably release the US crew immediately.
People worldwide are becoming less tolerant of US policies and, therefore, more reluctant to come to the aid of such an arrogant nation in times of trouble.
And so what if the Chinese dissected the spy-plane? The US would have done exactly the same in similar circumstance.
04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Spy plane row escalates
02 Apr 01 | Business
US stocks fall on diplomatic tensions
03 Apr 01 | Media reports
Chinese press slams US 'arrogance'
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests another US academic
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