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Officials Stress: No Apology

Aired April 11, 2001 - 09:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: More insight now on gaining the release of the 24 crew members that have been held on the Hainan Island. Let's go to the State Department, and that's where we find our national security correspondent, David Ensor, standing by.

David, good morning.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

I've been talking to officials here in the building. A couple of new points: First of all, the U.S. officials say their understanding of the word "prompt" -- that the crew members will be released promptly, means exactly that. They would not be surprised to see the crew members leaving China within the next 24 hours, barring logistical problems, weather problems, that sort of thing. It can't be ruled out they won't leave that quickly, but they don't expect to Chinese to hold this thing out. They think the Chinese want to get the crew members out of China, at this point, just as much as the Americans do.

Secondly, the language of the letter that Admiral Prueher signed and gave to the Chinese at that -- was the sort of breaker of the logjam at the end this morning. We understand from U.S. officials that language hasn't changed in days. That that letter, that the language of that letter with the two "very sorrys" in it has been the same for several days now.

The turning point, officials here say, was a letter that Secretary of State Powell sent to the Chinese over the weekend, in which he laid out a road map for how the two sides might get out of this impasse. And officials here say the language that the U.S. was prepared to sign hasn't changed in some time. It's just taken the Chinese a little while to absorb it and decide to accept it.

One other point that officials here want to make sure people understand: Chinese officials have been translating the U.S. letter as in some way saying that the U.S. had violated regulations about Chinese airspace. U.S. officials say there isn't anything in the letter. They want to stress, the way the U.S. understands the letter, it does not apologize for violating any laws about airspace. It says it's sorry that the Chinese airspace was entered without verbal clearance, but notes that the U.S. did follow the emergency regulation. So the U.S. there, again, stressing here is not apologizing, is not admitting fault, though it says sorry, very sorry, twice in the letter. Back to you.

KAGAN: David Ensor at the State Department, thank you. Stephen.

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