- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

The United States has sent $34,000 to China to cover costs connected with the April downing of a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane and the detention of its 24-member crew.
The Pentagon confirmed yesterday the money was on its way to the American Embassy in Beijing and would be delivered to the Chinese Foreign Ministry "in the next few days."
"We have arrived at what we think is a fair figure for services rendered and assistance in taking care of the aircrew and some of the materials and contracts to remove the EP-3" plane, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley told reporters.
He said Washington had "arrived completely independently" at the figure it has agreed to pay China but declined to disclose the exact amount.
"I won't guess as to how much," he said. "There was a particular dollar figure attached to each element of what the Chinese had given to us that they felt was appropriate."
Another U.S. official, however, said the payment was about $34,000, substantially less than the $1 million bill the Chinese government sent Washington in June.
The EP-3E plane was forced to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan island April 1 after a midair collision with a Chinese fighter jet. It wasn't returned to the United States until July 3, after being dismantled.
The 24-member crew was held for 11 days, and the Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, who died in the collision, was declared a martyr by Beijing.
The incident strained ties with Washington, giving a bumpy start to the Bush administration's relationship with Beijing
It came amid a series of arrests of U.S.-based Chinese scholars accused by China of spying for Taiwan.
Three of the scholars, including American University researcher Gao Zhan, were freed late last month after the intervention of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on the eve of his first visit to Beijing.
Adm. Quigley, when asked if the United States intends to charge China for damage done to the $80 million EP-3E, said, "Not that I'm aware of at this point."
Washington's decision to reimburse China provoked criticism against using U.S. taxpayers' money.
"It's outrageous for the U.S. government to pay one cent to Communist China for the costs it incurred by ramming an American military airplane operating in international airspace, illegally detaining its crew, and stealing its equipment before allowing for its rightful return," said former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, president of American Values, a conservative advocacy group.
"The goal of our policy, first and foremost, should protect America's national security," he said. "We need to stop worrying about how China can save face and start worrying about how to maintain American credibility."
But China experts were more cautious in their assessment of the U.S. payment.
"It's hard for outsiders to speculate without being biased one way or another," said Ramon Myers, senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
"Maybe if we had handled the plane incident better, we could have gotten away without paying anything in the name of larger issues in the future," he said.
Adm. Quigley said that, although the Chinese government had listed charges for "a variety of things," including services provided to the crew and security, the U.S. estimate differed significantly.
"We took a look at that list, we tried to determine which ones seemed fair to us, and that comes to a certain dollar figure," he said. "We did not agree with each of those categories, nor their dollar figures, so we took an independent look at that. In some instances, we just didn't think that the figure was appropriate at all."
He declined to give reporters a breakdown of the expenses, which would "remain in diplomatic channels." But he insisted the reimbursement was "fair" and "nonnegotiable."
"That's the end of it," he said.
A State Department official said what the United States was prepared to pay was a "reasonable cost connected directly with the plane's return."
The fact that the crew was held at Hainan's Lingshui airfield longer than Washington deemed necessary, thus increasing the associated cost, "was factored into our thinking," Adm. Quigley said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide