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Chinese Foreign Ministry Briefs Press on Captured U.S. Spy PlaneAired April 3, 2001 - 10:44 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're just getting word now from Rebecca MacKinnon, our Beijing bureau chief, in Beijing, who, after listening to a Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing, has the latest word on this spy plane standoff story for us right now -- Rebecca.
REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Leon, the latest is that the Chinese Foreign Ministry called the foreign and Chinese press corps in for a briefing.
There was no update on when the meeting between the U.S. diplomats and the U.S. crew is going to take place, although the Foreign Ministry spokesman did say he expected it would happen shortly. But he had no further information.
The primary motive of this press conference was to reiterate the Chinese position that the United States is entirely at fault for the incident, and also reiterate that, as he said, the United States should stop making demands -- it's time for the United States to promptly apologize, instead of seeking excuses, he said.
He said that the bumping incident, the issue of the U.S. plane bumping into the Chinese plane, happened when the U.S. plane made a sharp turn into the Chinese plane in the direction of Chinese airspace and that the U.S. plane had illegally entered not only Chinese airspace, but also made an illegal landing on Chinese territory.
He said that China is a victim of this incident. The Chinese air pilot that was in the plane that had been bumped by the U.S. plane went down, and the search-and-rescue mission is still under way. He has still not been found. He had parachuted into the ocean.
He says that China is now fully entitled to conduct an investigation, that the crew was held shortly after the plane landed in Hainan Island, and that the Chinese government reserves a full right to search the plane.
The spokesman was also asked whether the U.S. crew had been questioned or asked to sign any statements. He replied that the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct any investigations into the matter that it sees fit.
So clearly, the Chinese were reiterating a stance that they want to see some more conciliation from the U.S. side. There's absolutely no indication of when the U.S. crew might actually be released, let alone when the U.S. plane -- or if the U.S. plane -- might ever be returned to the United States -- Leon.
HARRIS: Rebecca, you did hear that the Chinese are saying that they do have the full right to go on board that plane, but we have heard reports this morning -- we just heard from our Jamie McIntyre, at the Pentagon, who was saying that sources there have told him -- that the Chinese have, actually, gone on board that plane and have taken equipment off of it. They've started dismantling that plane. Did the Chinese ministry officials ever address that point?
MACKINNON: No, the Chinese Foreign Ministry official said he did not have any details about the specific nature of what he called the investigation being carried out by authorities down in Hainan, but he reiterated that the Chinese side reserves the right and has the authority to conduct any such investigation that it sees fit. And so the implication was that any such measures that might be going on are considered by China to be fully within its rights -- Leon.
HARRIS: Those are points we no doubt will hear disputed by the U.S. officials we'll talk to. But did the Chinese officials say anything at all about whether or not or when these crewmen will be turned over? We know that they expect to allow these crewmen to speak with U.S. officials, but will they be turned over?
MACKINNON: Well, that is a big question, and actually, the spokesman was asked whether the Chinese were asking for an apology before the crew might be turned over, and the response was somewhat vague. He said, well, the United States ought to think long and hard and stop making demands, and it ought to make an explanation, implying that the Chinese would like to see the United States take a different tack before the U.S. crew is handed over. But at the same time, he was not specifically saying that outright -- Leon.
HARRIS: Rebecca MacKinnon, reporting live this morning from Beijing -- we sure appreciate that report.
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