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State Department Echoes Calls for Access to Captured American Plane

Aired April 2, 2001 - 12:37 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you straight to the U.S. State Department. Spokesman, we expect, will make a statement and take questions about the current situation with China and other issues, such as Israel and the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic.

So, we'll listen in for a little bit.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: In making this determination, however, the secretary qualified the certification. The administration intends to continue to press Yugoslav authorities to follow through on their stated intention to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. United States' support for holding of an international donors conference will depend on continued progress by Yugoslavia and Serbia toward full cooperation with the tribunal.

So that's the essence of the decision. I'd be glad to take any questions you might have.

QUESTION: What does "full cooperation" mean?

BOUCHER: Full cooperation can involve any number of steps. Clearly, the cooperation has to be worked out with the tribunal.

What we've noted so far is things like they've drafted a law on cooperation with the tribunal; some suspects have indeed been turned over or turned themselves over with the help of Yugoslav authorities; they've set up an office for the tribunal in Belgrade.

So there have been a number of steps. These steps need to be fulfilled. We look forward to seeing the full cooperation in terms of international legal matters with the tribunal, passage of the law, things like that, transfer of further indictees.

QUESTION: Would Milosevic have to go to The Hague?

BOUCHER: As with this particular certification at this moment, clearly having Milosevic face international justice for international crimes remains a top priority of the international community and a key factor in their cooperation with the tribunal. But in terms of holding the donors conference, we will make clear that these and other steps are the kind of steps we would expect them to take.

BOUCHER: But I think the judgment will not be based on a single step alone, as this judgment was not.

QUESTION: What will be the consequences if Milosevic is found guilty at home, because he could face a 15-year sentence?

BOUCHER: We have always said that the cooperation between the Yugoslav authorities, the determination of how the sequencing goes between domestic justice and international justice and how those work together, that those are things that they should work with the International Tribunal. So we'll look for them to be doing that as part of our look at how they continue to cooperate and continue to fulfill the commitments that they have made to respect their international obligations.

QUESTION: Richard, you say U.S. support for the donors conference. Does that mean that if they don't continue their cooperation that the U.S. will not attend the donors conference; that you will attend and lobby for no more money to go to them? What does that mean?

BOUCHER: In that the donors conference -- the United States would play a principle role in any donors conference because we are strong supporters and we give a lot of money. I would not anticipate that a donors conference would be held without the support of the United States.

QUESTION: But you would kind of use a veto to stop the donors conference...

BOUCHER: We would not support the holding of a donors conference and we would not help organize one unless we continued to see them carry forward on these kind of steps. We will look for them to continue to carry out their commitments, and I will grant them they have made these commitments. They have only been in office, on the case of the Yugoslav government, for four or five months; on the case of the Serbian government, for two or three months.

We have seen the beginnings of cooperation, we think that cooperation has been adequate to certify that they meet the minimum threshold of our law, but the secretary qualified that decision by saying that we want to see continued cooperation before we support a donors conference.

QUESTION: What would the implications on debt rescheduling be after your decision, if any? BOUCHER: I'm not aware that there are any particular implications at this moment.

BOUCHER: I'd have to check.

QUESTION: The same question, regarding World Bank and IMF loans.

BOUCHER: The certification...


BOUCHER: ... means that we can disperse aid under our aid programs, and we can continue to support loans in the World Bank and the IMF.

QUESTION: Richard, as a matter of general principle, do you think that the jurisdiction of the ICTY trumps that of any domestic courts?

BOUCHER: That's a matter of international law that I don't think I can do at this moment. I'm not going to try to interpret international law on the fly. Clearly, we think that these things can be worked out and should be worked out between the government in Belgrade and the international tribunal. The tribunal, obviously, has authority in areas that involve international crimes.

QUESTION: The donors conference, exactly when would you expect it to be held?

BOUCHER: I think it's generally assumed that there would be a donors conference about early summer, that that will be held. And that, as I said, our support for that will depend on seeing the continued cooperation with the tribunal.

QUESTION: Are the amounts that are now being discussed of possible aid altogether from...

BOUCHER: I don't know of any at this stage. We're still a ways away from that.

QUESTION: How about continued U.S. aid, the $100 million runs out I think in September or...

BOUCHER: It would run out at the end of the fiscal year. And when we reveal the budget for next year, we would reveal the budget for things like this.

QUESTION: Richard, is this being directly communicated to Belgrade, or how has it been communicated?

BOUCHER: It is being communicated to Belgrade. This morning we asked our ambassador to communicate this to the government of Belgrade. So I assume it's been done by now.

QUESTION: Richard, just to review, in terms of Milosevic ending up at The Hague or not ending up at The Hague, you said no one act is going to determine anything, including that?

BOUCHER: Yes. It remains our goal to see him face justice in The Hague. We should be absolutely clear about that. We should be absolutely clear that we want that to take place sooner rather than later. But the overall standard that we will use in looking at the donors conference is whether they continue make progress on their commitments toward full cooperation with the tribunal.

QUESTION: Does that progress also include democratization, as was written into the law?

BOUCHER: Clearly, we want to see progress on democratization continue. In terms of the donors conference, this is the standard that I have set at this point.

QUESTION: So cooperation with The Hague tribunal is the conditions that you're laying out for supporting...

BOUCHER: For support for the donors conference. We expect them to keep fulfilling their commitments in any number of areas. But in terms of the decision that we just made on certification, the key element that we were concerned about was cooperation with the tribunal. We recognize how short a time the government's been in place, but also recognize that they have taken steps sufficient to meet the minimum standards of the law.

We think that it's good that they've done that, but we think there needs to be more cooperation and we'll continue to press for that, including by using the donors conference.

QUESTION: Any indications from the Yugoslavs how long their own legal procedures might take?

BOUCHER: Not that I know of. You'd have to get that from them.

QUESTION: Is there any deadline for when they would have to provide further cooperation before you decide about the donors conference?

BOUCHER: Not a specific date, but as anticipated, if the donors conference were to come off, as anticipated, in the early part of the summer, we'd have to see continued cooperation in the next few months to be able to prepare that.

QUESTION: Richard, when did Secretary Powell make this decision, and was it a direct consequence of Milosevic's arrest or?

BOUCHER: I didn't talk to him over the weekend, so I can't give you a precise moment. Over the weekend, he decided, and he announced it to us at this morning's staff meeting.

QUESTION: So presumably after events in Belgrade?



Can we let somebody else?

QUESTION: When he decided on Friday to put off his decision until today, was it with the anticipation of some of the events that later unfolded?

QUESTION: Did he have some sense that something might be happening?

BOUCHER: He didn't decide on Friday to put off his decision until today. He decided on Friday to put off the announcement until today. He was going to decide over the weekend anyway. We, obviously, had been reading your reports in the press to say that there was action on Milosevic anticipated shortly. And we were happy to see that over the weekend.

So anticipating that something might happen, he wanted to make sure the decision was made with the full knowledge of what the government was doing to fulfill its commitments.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have any confirmation of whether Chinese authorities have boarded our plane?

BOUCHER: No, I don't.

QUESTION: Are we checking on those reports?

BOUCHER: I think you'd have to get information -- as I read the reports -- you'd have to get information from the Pentagon about that.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what the diplomats now in Hainan are doing? And could you update on their contacts with the local authorities or whoever they're contacting?

BOUCHER: OK, let me try to go through the whole thing.

Clearly, as the president just said, our first priority is to get access to our people, speak directly with our crew members. We've been told that they are safe. We want to talk directly to them.

The Chinese have told us, late morning, Washington time, they told us in Beijing, in the ambassadors' meetings, that we will have access to our people tomorrow.

Now, the president made clear that we were troubled by the lack of prompt access -- made clear that we were troubled by the lack of prompt response, first of all, and then, second of all, by the lack of prompt access.

BOUCHER: It's already Tuesday in Beijing, so we'll see what happens. But, clearly, to tell us that we may have access tomorrow is not a complete response. We look for early access, as the president said, we look for prompt access, and we will keep pushing to have that prompt access tomorrow as early as possible.

The people that we have down in the area are the military attache from Beijing, one of his staff, our consular chief from the consulate general in Guangzhou. They arrived in Hainan Island on Monday, China time.

We've been having meetings with the Chinese, as the president said, to press for prompt access. Our ambassador met with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chou Win-Jung (ph) in Beijing yesterday. Undersecretary Grossman called in the Chinese ambassador in Washington yesterday afternoon. And Ambassador Prueher met again this morning with China's assistant foreign minister in Beijing, or this morning our time, so this afternoon; our ambassador met again today in Beijing with China's assistant foreign minister. We've told the Chinese very clearly we want prompt access, as the president said. We told the Chinese, as the president said, we expect them to respect the integrity of the aircraft. We've told them we expect them to provide for the well-being and safety of the crew in accordance with international practice, to expedite any necessary repairs to the aircraft, and to facilitate the immediate return of the aircraft and crew.

QUESTION: You said that you would have access tomorrow, meaning Tuesday, China time?

BOUCHER: Yes. They told us that we may have access, I guess, tomorrow...

QUESTION: May or will? I mean, there's a difference.

BOUCHER: I guess, they...

QUESTION: We may allow them to...


BOUCHER: ... that we will be allowed to have access tomorrow. But I think the point is that's a fairly vague formulation. As the president made clear in his statement, we continue to press for prompt access. Tomorrow is just starting in China. We would hope that access would take place as early as possible.

QUESTION: Daybreak in Hainan, which is another sort of six hours or so, does that count as prompt and...

BOUCHER: We would want to see it as early as possible. The president made quite clear we're looking for prompt access and not further delay.

QUESTION: Richard, what have the Chinese told you is the status of these crew members? You're looking for prompt access under what international standard? And also, I'm very confused about this claim you guys are making that this plane is somehow territorially in the United States. How do you make that argument that if they did board the plane, it would be a violation of U.S. sovereignty?

BOUCHER: Again, I'm not in a position to go through a detailed legal explanation. Our view is that military aircraft have sovereign immunity under international law and practice.

BOUCHER: We've made that view quite clear to the Chinese.

As far as getting access to our aircrew, I don't think the Chinese have said if they're under a detention or what they consider their status to be.

We consider that international aircrews that make emergency landings need to be provided with the ability to communicate and to speak directly with their national government, and that it is standard international practice and basic handling of an emergency situation to get them in touch with us as soon as possible.

And it is under that international standard of international practice and law that we would expect to be able to see them.

QUESTION: But that's a consular access thing, correct? I mean, it would be almost the same as if someone were arrested?

BOUCHER: Again, well, that is the question. I don't want to sort of verge on the point of declaring these people in detention or something like that. Clearly, they are located with their aircraft at a Chinese airfield, and the Chinese need to permit us to have access.

We consider that access to be routine, normal, under standard international practice.

And as you've heard, I think, from Admiral Blair in Hawaii, he described the way something like this would work in Hawaii, and we've made quite clear that access would be first and foremost on our minds.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that each of the crewmen are being held separately? And do you have information from the Chinese about their conditions right now?

BOUCHER: What we've been told is that they're safe and that they're well. And we appreciate that, but we need to speak to them directly for us to find anything more out about the conditions and the situation.

QUESTION: Richard, I know you told us about the diplomatic contacts so far. Are there any further contacts planned today with the calling of Chinese ambassador in, perhaps?

BOUCHER: I don't have any schedule at this point. I'm sure that there will continue to be contacts. Many of these contacts have taken place over the phone. Some have taken place in person, like under Secretary Grossman's discussion with the Chinese ambassador yesterday. So I'm sure they will continue, but I don't have any particular ones to cite for you.

QUESTION: Could these contacts be described as including the lodging of formal protests or anything along those lines?

BOUCHER: I've described them the way I've described them, and I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: And the plane is going to be there until it's able to fly. Is the United States going to, in addition to making a request for contact with the crew, going to request permission to leave the crew with the plane until the plane is airworthy and can get out?

BOUCHER: As I said, we are talking to them about the safety and well-being of our crew, about the need for prompt access, about the need to expedite any necessary repairs to the aircraft, and facilitate the immediate return of the aircraft and the crew. Clearly, how exactly that occurs will depend on our judgments of the airworthiness of the aircraft and things like that. But this process has to begin as early as possible. And the president make quite clear prompt access was our chief concern at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, does the United States, at this point, view the incident as an accident or as a provocation by the Chinese? Were they trying to force the plane down somehow?

BOUCHER: We see this as an accident, as a midair accident. That's what we know. The Pentagon has discussed it. Obviously, we had two airplanes that suffered damaged, the U.S. aircraft that was forced into an emergency landing and the Chinese aircraft that has gone missing. Obviously, we're as concerned about the loss of their aircraft and are prepared to help them with search and rescue, as we've said.

QUESTION: There was at least one report, though, that the Chinese jets had fired warning shots. Do you have any information on that?

BOUCHER: I don't have any information like that. And you can check with the Pentagon or with the Pacific Command people about any more details that we might know of the exact situation and the incident. I know about the diplomatic side of things.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese told you why they won't let the crew speak to Washington?

BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese made any demands on the U.S.? Have they demanded an apology? They say this is the U.S. fault, they claim that this was international waters. Is there anything that they have demanded from us? And do we accept their premise that this was not in international waters but in Chinese?

BOUCHER: No, I think both the Chinese and the United States have said it was some 70 miles to the south of Hainan Island. I think their numbers and our numbers were fairly close together; I don't think there's much dispute about where the situation occurred.

BOUCHER: As far as what they've demanded, I've seen a few things in public. I, frankly, don't know what they might have said in private. I would just make the make that we think that international practice and law require them to give us prompt access and that remains our chief concern here.

QUESTION: They clearly haven't given you access at this stage, and you say it's a requirement that they do. Are there any repercussions for China-U.S. relations? And what consequences are there if you don't get prompt access Tuesday, China time?

BOUCHER: I think we'll start speculating after things occur, rather before they don't occur.

QUESTION: Any damage so far? BOUCHER: No. At this point, I'll just say this is a very important issue to us. We have made very, very clear our concerns about this situation, our need for prompt access, fact that we're concerned and troubled by the lack of timely response and the lack of timely access. The president's made that clear in his statements at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

QUESTION: When you say that the Chinese have to respect the integrity of the aircraft, is there some international convention to which they are a party that governs this kind of a incident, this kind of situation?

BOUCHER: Again, I'm not in the position to do the full interpretation of international law, but it's clearly our view that military aircraft have sovereign immunity under international law and practice, and that's what we consider to be a well-established fact.

QUESTION: Has China accepted that view in the past?

QUESTION: Or is there any indication that they...

BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to ask them.

QUESTION: Richard, I'm a little unclear on the crew itself. Do we know where they are physically? Are they on the plane? Are they somewhere else on the base?

And secondly, could you talk a little bit more on Secretary Powell's role in this whole thing?

BOUCHER: As far as exactly where the crew is located at the airfield, no, I don't know. I'm not sure if the Pentagon has any more information than I do on that.

Clearly, we haven't spoken to them. We haven't had the access that we think we need and that we think that we deserve. And those kinds of concerns, those kinds of questions about their location and condition, can be answered by letting us speak to them.

We've been assured by the Chinese that they are safe and that they are well. We certainly welcome that news, but we need to speak to them ourselves.

QUESTION: The promise of access Tuesday was conveyed by whom to whom?

BOUCHER: By the Chinese vice foreign minister to our ambassador late this morning, Washington time.

QUESTION: And you say that this is common international practice. Are there any precedents you can cite where a plane has gone down in similar circumstances and it has not been touched by the country in which it landed, a Russian or Soviet plane that landed here or a Chinese plane?

BOUCHER: I would have to do a more exhaustive search on that. Maybe the Pentagon has that information.

QUESTION: The other part of the question was, could you talk about Secretary Powell's role in this whole...

BOUCHER: Oh, Secretary Powell's role. The secretary has been working on this issue throughout the weekend. I think Admiral Prueher had counted six phone calls from the secretary over the course of the weekend.

BOUCHER: The secretary has remained in close touch with him and close touch with the other people in this building that are working on the issue and talking to the Chinese embassy, Undersecretary Grossman and the people from the East Asia Bureau. So he's been basically organizing our diplomatic efforts on this matter, working closely with Dr. Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld on the various other aspects of the matter, and keeping in very close touch with his representatives as they go to meet the Chinese.

QUESTION: Richard, maybe this was covered over the weekend, but do you know of any attempts after the incident and before the plane landed in Hainan to inform the Chinese in advance that it was coming, through diplomatic channels?

BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. I think you'd have to go back to the Pentagon for some indication of how long it took, but they were 70 south of Hainan Island. They declared an emergency landing, and they landed in southern Hainan Island, so I can't imagine there was much time involved between the moment that they had to declare the emergency and make the landing.

QUESTION: There are reports that there's yet another Chinese- American being detained in China, this time for eight months. Can you confirm that? A third person.

BOUCHER: No, I'd have to look at that specific situation. I don't know about that.


QUESTION: Didn't you say the other day there were 20?

BOUCHER: There are as many as 20 Americans being held under different charges in different places.


BOUCHER: Some of these are going to be criminal charges.


BOUCHER: So not all of these are going to be necessarily academics or political situations.

Let's see, on the American citizen for whom we've had consular access, we visited the American citizen again on April 2; that would be today. This is the American citizen. I've talked about one permanent resident and one American citizen.


BOUCHER: I'm not allowed to say the name, because we don't have a Privacy Act waiver. But we confirmed on Friday that there was an American citizen in jail in China, a case that we've been working on since late February, and we were able to see him again on April 2. We continue to be in close consultation with the family of this American citizen, but I can't go beyond that because we don't have a Privacy Act waiver on that.

This is a case where the Chinese did give us notification and allow us consular access in a timely manner under the agreement.

As far as the situation of Ms. Gao Zhan, we raised this case again on March 30 with the Chinese, both in Washington and in Beijing, and we continue to urge the Chinese to release Ms. Gao immediately, so that she can be reunited with her family in the United States.

QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to the plane for one second? You said there were, I think, three. There's the defense attache and his assistant...

BOUCHER: There are three people down on Hainan Island, yes.

QUESTION: From Beijing?

BOUCHER: From Beijing.

QUESTION: And one from Guangzhou.

BOUCHER: The consular section chief from our consulate general in Guangzhou.

QUESTION: Are there plans for any more to go or would that be seen as kind of too many cooks?

BOUCHER: Those are the people that we felt could go down and fulfill the immediate need to speak to our crew and have the access how things would evolve, in terms of, you know, repairs and repatriation.


QUESTION: At the moment there are no plans to send anyone else.

BOUCHER: At the moment these are the people that are down there, yes.

QUESTION: OK. And can you look into, maybe later on in the day, clarify exactly how you've determined that this military plane is territorial, least sovereign?

BOUCHER: I'm trying to be careful with the words, too. I'm not sure whether sovereign territory and sovereign immunity are the same thing. But we think the aircraft carries sovereign immunity, and, therefore, its integrity needs to be respected. And we think that is a well-established principle of international law and practice.

QUESTION: Can you say whether there had been, before this incident, whether the U.S. had been concerned about Chinese planes getting very close to U.S. planes in what we considered international waters and what they did not, and whether we had gone to them to discuss the problem that we felt existed?

BOUCHER: Again, I question the premise as to whether they don't consider this to be in international waters or international airspace. I haven't seen any dispute on that point.

This practice of intercepting our aircraft that fly in international airspace is one that we've, obviously, seen for sometime in the past, that we've been concerned over time about the way these intercepts have been carried out. So we have been concerned about this fact that there's a -- I think, one of our admiral's describe it as a fairly aggressive practice of intercepting our aircraft, and that we have raised this issue in the past with the Chinese. We have raised it largely in military-to-military channels at high levels.

BOUCHER: We have a military maritime consultative agreement that was signed last year by the defense ministers of both sides. That is the forum for discussing these sorts of things. They have discussed the Chinese intercept practices in the past at those meetings, and there's another meeting coming up in San Francisco in a few weeks, so we would expect to raise it again there.

QUESTION: I was wondering, have the Chinese given us any indication why they're denying access to these people?

BOUCHER: I don't have any explanation for you. You'd have to ask them.

QUESTION: Are they expressed any?

BOUCHER: Again, you'd have to ask them for any explanation they might want to give.

QUESTION: Where are the 20 being held, 20 Americans being held?

BOUCHER: Overall, in China. But as I said, I don't want to make these all into political cases. Many of these may become a crime...

QUESTION: And how many cases do you have access of those 20?

BOUCHER: I would have to check. I assume we have consular access in all those cases because we know about them.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that there may be a certain number who you don't access to and who we don't even know about?

BOUCHER: No, I'm not trying to say that.


If we can count them, we have access to them. I assume that is all the cases. As you know, we've expressed our serious concerns about the way they handled the case of Ms. Gao's son, because he wasn't an American citizen, and he was detained, in our view, for something like a month, without our having the proper notice and access.

BOUCHER: And that's an issue that we've raised with the Chinese repeatedly. We've made quite clear our view that their actions were not consistent with their obligations. We've discussed in some detail their obligations, and they have given us the commitment to allow notice and consular access in cases, even when it involves a minor.

So that's an issue that we have raised, and we want to make sure it exists. But I don't have any indication that we're not getting the proper access to Americans that are incarcerated in China under our consular convention.

I do want to say, the president's concern about the aviators is beyond that statement, that clearly we're very troubled by the lack of prompt access in this situation that we're facing right now.

QUESTION: Do the Chinese have the right to question this crew? And if they don't, has the United States, in a similar way, notified the Chinese that they are not to be, you know, put under interrogation or questioning?

BOUCHER: I guess I'd have to look. That's kind of a slight wrinkle on what we've said that I would have to look up and find out. I'm afraid it's just not a question I asked. I'll try to find out for you.

QUESTION: This question of sovereign immunity, I actually saw a report as I was leaving my office that the Chinese had been on the plane. Do we have any indication that they have? And if they do board the plane in any way, that's a violation, presumably, of this immunity. And does it bring any consequences?

BOUCHER: I was asked that question about 15 minutes ago, and I referred people to the Pentagon to find out the facts. And as far as speculating on the consequences, I don't want to speculate at this point.

QUESTION: How are these things being handled diplomatically? Are they all being put in separate baskets? For example, the Americans that are being held and the access to the airplane. I know there are a number of other issues regarding sale of arms to Taiwan, the U.S. pushing for denunciation of China in Geneva. Is either side bringing up these other issues? Or is it just one thing at a time?


BOUCHER: It's kind of a hard question to answer because the answer is yes and no or both, that, clearly, each of the issues that is of concern to us we raise at the appropriate time and the appropriate channels in our relationship.

One day, it may be a humans rights case; the next day, the consular chief. Or the same day, you may have the ambassador raising one case and the consular chief with his legal counterparts on the consular's side raising the question of obligations under the Vienna Convention.

At the same time, when we have high level meetings, like the visit of Qian Qichen that occurred, they handle a number of issues.

BOUCHER: And the secretary or the president in these cases makes quite clear how these different issues fit into the overall relationship and the pattern of the kind of relationship that we would like to have.

And clearly, given the fact that we do want to have a productive relationship with China, that meeting obligations under consular access or following standard international law and practice with regard to access to an aircrew that's made emergency landings, those become factors in the overall relationship that we would like to have.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) are the Chinese then attaching issues that they're upset about or concerned about to this case? When you talk to them, do they mention other things?

BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. I'd have to double-check to see what they have said. I'm not here to report on what they've said in these meetings, I'm here to report on what we've pressed for and what we think is standard practice and something that we would expect to happen. So if anybody does attach conditions to visiting with an aircrew that's been downed in an emergency landing, that would not be appropriate.

QUESTION: I realize most of the Middle East stuff is going to be coming out of the White House today, but I understand the secretary spoke with Prime Minister Sharon this morning, and I'm wondering if he...

ALLEN: Well, we will leave it there and continue to monitor as they take -- as he takes questions about the situation in the Middle East. That's Richard Boucher of the State Department, maintaining what we have heard from U.S. officials throughout this day that number one, the U.S. wants immediate access to the crew of this spy plane, and number two, wants access to the plane itself.

CNN has reported from our Beijing bureau that Chinese officials have boarded the spy plane, and also, CNN has reported that the 24 crew members are being held separately. Mr. Boucher could not -- would not confirm that at this time. We will cover the story top to bottom for you, including the comments of President Bush on this situation a short time ago on CNN LIVE TODAY, which begins next.



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