- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

The United States has threatened to walk out on further meetings in Beijing unless Chinese officials agree to discuss the return of a U.S. surveillance plane held since April 1.
Early today, U.S. Ambassador to China Joseph W. Prueher visited the Chinese foreign ministry to inform officials there of the U.S. resolve.
The U.S. envoy was seen entering the ministry at 9 a.m. local time (8 p.m. EST) and leaving again after 45 minutes.
U.S. Embassy officials said the ambassador may issue a statement later, while the Chinese declined to comment on the meeting.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday the United Sates was resolved to pack up and go home unless the return of the U.S. plane is discussed.
"Nothing was settled today," he said of a 21/2-hour meeting at the Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday.
The meetings are aimed at resolving the fate of the U.S. plane, U.S. surveillance flights off Chinas coast and responsibility for the collision that left a Chinese jet and its pilot missing.
"There was no progress on the issue of return of the airplane," Mr. Boucher told reporters at the State Department.
" will tell them we are willing to continue this meeting but only if there is a productive discussion of this aircraft."
In a letter to China that secured the release of 24 U.S. fliers last week, Mr. Prueher said it was understood that yesterdays meeting would "include discussion of the causes of the incident, possible recommendations whereby such collisions could be avoided in the future, development of a plan for prompt return of the EP-3 aircraft, and other related issues. We acknowledge your governments intention to raise U.S. reconnaissance missions near China in the meeting."
The spokesman said yesterday that the United States was "willing to have another meeting, but only if the Chinese are willing to discuss in a constructive manner the issues in the letter that we sent them, including the return of our airplane.
"So well have no news on further meetings until after weve had that meeting at the Foreign Ministry."
The U.S. team headed by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Peter F. Verga was to return home tomorrow.
Mr. Boucher declined to describe the atmosphere of the meeting over what has become the biggest crisis in U.S.-Chinese relations since the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999. Before that, U.S. aircraft carriers were sent to protect Taiwan during intimidating Chinese missile tests in 1996.
A senior State Department official described the Chinese presentation yesterday as "polemical."
"They need to deal with the issues more seriously and not just use the meeting as a chance for more polemics," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
However, he noted that in previous discussions with the Chinese, "day two can be different from day one."
China specialists on Capitol Hill said the Bush administration — by coming out and saying that the first day of the meetings has been a failure — has shifted U.S. policy from that of the Clinton administration.
The Hill specialists said the Clinton team would have never characterized such a meeting with the Chinese as unproductive, even if it was.
"Our policy toward China is shifting from appeasement to deterrence," said author and China critic Bill Triplett, staff assistant to Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican. "I see those straws in the wind."
Mr. Boucher said both sides used the meeting to present their differing views of the April 1 incident.
The United States believes its EP-3E intelligence-gathering plane was legally flying over international waters 60 miles off Chinas coast when it was bumped by a tailing Chinese jet, whose pilot is now presumed lost at sea.
China had no right to detain the American crew for 11 days or to keep and inspect the American plane, which issued traditional emergency alerts before landing at Hainan island, say U.S. officials.
China, however, says the U.S. plane had no right to gather information inside its 200-mile offshore Exclusive Economic Zone.
It also says the plane made a sudden turn that caused the collision with the Chinese plane. And it says the U.S. plane landed illegally without verbal permission.
"Since there was not a productive discussion of the return of our airplane at the meeting today, we want to be reassured that they are willing to do that before we continue these discussions," Mr. Boucher said.
The Chinese did get to raise their concerns over the continuation of U.S. flights, he said.
"What were looking for is an attempt to address these in a more productive manner, a more straightforward manner, and to look at all the issues in the letter and not just to use it as a forum for restating views that weve heard before."

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