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U.S./China Relations: State Department Discusses Wednesday's Meeting

Aired April 16, 2001 - 12:40   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.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to join a State Department briefing which is in progress. Richard Boucher is talking about the next step with Chinese officials after the release of the American crew over the weekend.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: ... Department of State and of our embassy in Beijing.

The discussion will focus on the subjects that were described in Ambassador Prueher's letter to Foreign Minister Tang. The agenda includes discussion of the causes of the incident, possible recommendations whereby such a collision could be avoided in the future, development of a plan for the prompt return of our aircraft and other related issues.

I think that's pretty much what there is to say at this point.

Obviously, we look forward to the meeting on Wednesday. We have heard from the Chinese that they intend to take a nonpolemical and straightforward approach to this meeting. We look forward to that.

We have made quite clear that we think that a productive meeting can set the basis for our further relationship. And on the other hand, a polemical meeting would give us some indication of how they might or might not intend to proceed with the relationship.

BOUCHER: So we do look forward to a productive exchange of views with the Chinese at that time, hopefully some progress on some of these issues. And then we'll see where we go from there, in terms of the overall relationship.

QUESTION: Can you say how long you expect this meeting to go on?

BOUCHER: I can't say for sure at this point. It could be a couple days.

QUESTION: Do you think this is at a high enough level so that some of these issues can actually be resolved and resolved promptly? Or might it take ratcheting up to a higher level?

BOUCHER: I think we've demonstrated in this current situation that, if we approach these things in a straightforward manner, and the Chinese do, too, that we're able to solve issues through a diplomatic channel such as this. So we would hope to be able to resolve some of these issues in the way that was worked out and envisaged in the letter that Ambassador Prueher sent to Foreign Minister Tang.

QUESTION: The Pentagon's already made clear, last Friday, that it's going to continue with these flights. Is the U.S. team going, prepared to make any adjustment in the way these flights are flown to accomplish the goals you just outlined, such as staying further off the shore or announcing them ahead of time or doing anything along those lines by way of concession to the Chinese to avoid this kind of thing in the future?

BOUCHER: I think the United States has made clear all along, as many of our spokesmen did on Friday, that the flying of these flights is an important part of our national security.

It's an important part of stability in Asia. It's a decision that we make where to fly, as long as we're in international airspace, when to fly, as long as we're in international airspace, and that we would continue to make those decisions on our own.

QUESTION: Two things, really. One, is there a venue for the meeting? And two, when did the Chinese tell you that they intend to take a nonpolemical approach?

BOUCHER: Over the weekend, they talked to our embassy. I'm not exactly sure in what meeting. But we certainly look forward to that and to having as constructive a meeting as possible.

As far as the venue, it is in Beijing. I don't know the exact location.

QUESTION: Obviously, it's not completely neutral territory, because it is in China. But they're not going to have it at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? They're not going to have it at the embassy?

BOUCHER: I don't know where they're going to have it. I mean, once again, I refer you to the experience of the last 10 or 11 days. We were able to work productively and work out an issue, working through diplomatic channels in Beijing, in this case. In the case of the negotiations with Ambassador Prueher, that was mostly in Beijing, at the Foreign Ministry or with the Foreign Ministry at other locations.

So I don't think the ability to succeed or not in this meeting is dependent on location. I think it's dependent on the attitude that the two sides bring to the occasion. We look forward to the Chinese bringing a nonpolemical attitude to it and see what we can do there.

QUESTION: Can you say why Ambassador Prueher is not involved in these talks, given how involved he has been through this?

BOUCHER: I think our ambassador doesn't necessarily need to negotiate every point. This is particularly about the airplane, about the flights. And it's in some ways appropriate that the delegation headed by a deputy undersecretary from our Defense Department would be heading those discussions.

QUESTION: With this new emphasis on productive talks, how are things going to go now with Gao Zhan? Were we able to keep that up- to-date while this other crisis was going on? And will the State Department now turn more attention toward this case? And does the resolution of the case with the 24 American crew members give you hope that they are going to become more flexible in this case?

BOUCHER: I'm not sure I could say that. I think with these...

ALLEN: Richard Boucher at the State Department talking of the upcoming meeting between the U.S. and China that happens Wednesday in Beijing. Among the issues that will be talked about will be the return of the U.S. EP-3 plane that is still on Hainan Island. The Bush administration calls this meeting "a taking of temperatures."

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