- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

Chinese diplomats made no moves to return a damaged U.S. surveillance plane during "businesslike" meetings with U.S. officials in Beijing yesterday, but did listen to U.S. requests for a return of the plane, U.S. officials said.
In sharp contrast to a meeting Wednesday that a U.S. official described as "polemical, " yesterdays meeting was "businesslike — they dealt with all the topics that we wanted to deal with," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Chinese officials also showed the Americans videos and an animation that they claimed showed the U.S. plane was responsible for the April 1 collision with a Chinese jet fighter.
U.S. officials were skeptical that the animation, showing the U.S. propeller-driven plane veering sharply into the path of the Chinese jet, reflected what actually happened.
White House spokesman Ari White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that despite some improvement in tone, the United States was still not satisfied with Chinese handling of the incident.
"The matter is not resolved, " he said. "We still want the plane."
U.S. officials would not say whether the damaged U.S. plane had a black box on board that recorded its maneuvers and could verify U.S. claims that the American plane was heading straight ahead on automatic pilot when the collision took place.
The U.S. team headed by defense official Peter F. Verga proposed talks on avoiding future incidents and suggested such talks be held "within the structure of the Military Maritime Consultative Arrangement, " said Mr. Boucher. The MMCA is a forum for regular talks between the two countries.
"The Chinese promised to pass that request to their superiors" along with requests for plans to get the U.S. plane examined by U.S. mechanics and then repaired or transported out of China and back to U.S. control, " the spokesman said.
However, the next meeting of the MMCA, scheduled for April 23 in San Francisco, has been postponed since both countries need time to figure out their next moves, Mr. Boucher said.
The United States had threatened to cancel yesterdays meeting in Beijing after the Chinese on Wednesday refused to discuss the U.S. demands for a return of the EP-3E surveillance plane, which made an emergency landing after its collision with the Chinese jet on April 1.
China detained 24 U.S. fliers aboard the U.S. plane for 11 days on Hainan island and still has the plane, which is crammed with high-tech surveillance, encryption and communications gear.
U.S. Ambassador to China Joseph Prueher visited the Foreign Ministry in Beijing yesterday morning. "At that meeting, we were told that the Chinese were prepared to address all the issues and that the EP-3E aircraft itself would be on the agenda for the meeting with the delegation, " said Mr. Boucher.
Since the Chinese have had possession of the plane, U.S. diplomats and officials have been instructed to boycott all Chinese diplomatic and social events, said a State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Boucher said that at yesterdays meeting "the tone, the substance, the topics discussed changed." He would not say why the tone changed or whether the Chinese were responding to U.S. threats to walk out of the talks.
U.S. officials must now prepare a document with an agenda for the MMCA meeting, listing the items that the United States seeks to discuss along with proposals to avoid future incidents.
Meanwhile, China is expected to respond through regular diplomatic channels to the U.S. request for the planes return.
China has said it is keeping the $80 million plane during its "investigation" of the April 1 incident, but its likely that they are studying the high-tech equipment on board.
U.S. officials have said that much of the top-secret codes and computer programs on board were deleted as the plane made a harrowing emergency descent and landed on Hainan some 30 minutes after the collision.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley refused to say whether further U.S. reconnaissance flights have been scheduled or taken place since the April 1 incident.
"We have made no announcement on scheduling or any of the details of those flights, other than to say that we intend to continue to fly reconnaissance and surveillance flights around the world in international airspace, in accordance with international law, " he said yesterday.
He noted that the videos shown yesterday by the Chinese at the Beijing meeting included shots unrelated to the April 1 incident, showing "a Navy F-14 and Navy F/A-18s that were apparently shot from a Chinese aircraft out through the canopy."
He said the video did not show aggressive behavior such as flying too close, which U.S. officials say caused the April 1 collision.
Adm. Quigley did say yesterdays meeting was positive.
"Todays talks were very much worth doing and we were very pleased that all three of the agenda items were discussed, " he told reporters at the Pentagon briefing.
"Theres no definitive conclusions or agreements in hand, as of today, but its a start and its a good place to start."

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