- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001

Key senators of both parties said yesterday that the Bush administration needs to take a tougher stance in its future relations with China, and that it must demand return of the damaged EP-3E surveillance plane China still has in its possession and invoke various punishments.
"Relations cannot continue on the current basis… . There's got to be retribution," Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"China has questioned our credibility as a power. That cannot stand. The burden is on George Bush to make that clear," Mr. Torricelli said.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN's "Late Edition" it's crucial that the United States "sends a strong signal to China that it cannot continue to engage in belligerent activity toward Taiwan and toward the United States and expect to have the kind of relationship with us that we had thought that it wanted to have."
Sending such a strong signal to China, Mr. Kyl said, should be the "first priority" when U.S. and Chinese officials meet Wednesday to try to determine what caused the April 1 midair collision over the South China Sea between a U.S. EP-3E surveillance plane and a Chinese F-8 fighter jet. The jet broke up and fell into the sea, killing the pilot.
The pilot of the heavily damaged American plane, Lt. Shane Osborn, managed to control it after a plunge of between 5,000 and 8,000 feet and was forced to land it on Chinese soil without authorization. The 24 crew members of the EP-3E were held in China for 12 days.
While the United States says reckless flying by the Chinese pilot caused the collision, China has insisted the crash occurred as a result of an unexpected move by the lumbering U.S. propeller plane. In China, anti-American rhetoric has escalated during the past few days, which does not bode well for the talks scheduled on Wednesday.
Said Mr. Kyl on CNN: "Trade alone does not define our relationship [with China]. There are significant national security concerns and human rights concerns."
He went on to say China should return the crippled EP-3E surveillance plane to the United States, something the Bush administration is already demanding. "I think that is rather symbolic, but it will illustrate whether or not China is willing to begin to play by the rules that bind most other members of the international community or whether it will continue to be, in some aspects, a rogue nation," Mr. Kyl said.
Many prominent members of Congress from both parties who appeared on yesterday's morning news talk shows expressed doubts they would again make China a permanent U.S. trading partner in the aftermath of the recent incident with that country especially if the U.S. plane was not returned.
"I think it would put in jeopardy the congressional vote on most favored nation [trading] status," if China does not release the downed U.S. plane, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He said he "probably would not vote" for such a designation for China under those circumstances.
Mr. Torricelli, also on NBC, said he would vote against it "without question."
He suggested a variety of other possible punishments for China. The list included having President Bush cancel his planned trip to China in October and selling Taiwan much of the sophisticated weaponry it says it needs to protect itself against possible attacks from Beijing.
"This can be seen as a good reality test for future relations with China. But there's no question that this is going to have a residue of impact on our future relationship. Now, whether that's irreparable or not, I think it's too early to tell," Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said on CBS' "Face The Nation."
In appearances on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas Republican, and Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, both gave Mr. Bush an "A" for the way he handled the incident with China.
"It was a tremendous diplomatic and political victory for the president and the administration," said Mr. Hutchinson.
Asked if he believes the return of the U.S. plane should be a condition for any further talks between China and the United States, Mr. Hutchinson said, "I don't think you start out with preconditions. But I think we must take a very tough stance in those negotiations, and I think the administration will."
Mr. Graham also said he does not favor setting conditions. "But we've already indicated that if one of the purposes of the April 18 meeting is to try to intimidate us so that we will not continue to fly these reconnaissance flights along the Chinese coast, that's going to be unsuccessful for the Chinese," he said.
Mr. Graham added: "We have a right to be there. It's important for us to be there. Our presence there actually contributes to the stability of Asia."
In separate television interviews yesterday, Mr. Graham and two Nixon-era Cabinet members Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger said they believe the Chinese military likely delayed the return of the 24 crew members and was playing an increased role in Beijing's foreign policy.
Mr. Schlesinger, on "Face the Nation," said he suspects the Chinese military lied to the country's civilian leaders about what actually happened in the April 1 incident.
"If the military proceeds in China without the support of the civilian leadership, we have problems. And it is plain from this episode that the military has more authority than we would like, and that authority is being exercised in the run-up to the choosing of the leadership next year," Mr. Schlesinger said.
Mr. Kissinger, who appeared on Fox, said he thinks it's "very probable the military delayed" resolution of the standoff "by 48 to 72 hours" as a result of a "rather bellicose statement" the Chinese defense minister made the previous weekend.

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