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U.S. to Resume Reconnaissance Flights Off Chinese Coast

Aired April 17, 2001 - 13:32   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've been keeping an eye on the Pentagon briefing today. We want to take you there now live because Rear Admiral Craig Quigley has been taking questions about the resumption of reconnaissance flights near China.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... just in terms of who the U.S. representatives are meeting with, how long the meetings are supposed to go on, and whether the U.S. delegation to that, the representatives for that meeting, brought with them any visual aids of any kind to make the case?

REAR. ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Well, as of the time of arrival in Beijing yesterday, we did not have the names nor affiliations of the representatives from the Chinese government that were going to attend the meetings. I don't know if they have that in hand yet, Jamie, although it's pretty late at night now there in Beijing time. But that issue was not resolved when our delegation got there.

They are prepared to discuss the four agenda items that were in Ambassador Prueher's letter to the foreign minister from a week, and a half ago. I don't remember the exact date.

And I can go over those again, if you wish. They are the causes of the accident; possible recommendations as to how to preclude such accidents from taking place in the future; a discussion of the plan for the prompt return of our aircraft, of our EP-3; and we understand that the Chinese wish to discuss the continuation of surveillance and reconnaissance flights. That is the agenda.

QUESTION: How will this incident affect the Pentagon's recommendation as for what types of defensive weapons the United States should sell to Taiwan?

QUIGLEY: I think we're looking at them as two separate incidents. You have an accident, and the purpose of the meeting on the 18th in Beijing is to discuss the four agenda items that I just mentioned, but all of those are related to the accident.

And on this hand, you have the Taiwan Relations Act, which is spelled out in law as to what our motivations are in discussing and eventually agreeing to sell legitimate defensive weapon systems to Taiwan. So you're really talking two different issues there; the one is driven by recent events and the other has its basis in the law.

QUESTION: But the fact that China appeared to be acting hostilely toward the United States over the last two weeks has no bearing on to what extent the United States aids Taiwan in its defense?

QUIGLEY: We need to go back to what Secretary Rumsfeld said from this room on Friday afternoon. I don't think anybody believes that the Chinese pilot took off that day with the intention to collide with the American EP-3. He was flying too aggressively. We think that is the case, based on the fact that he made a total of three passes, and the last one perilously close, and ended up with a collision. But it wasn't the goal, to have a collision.

So you're talking about an incident here of aggressive flying versus compliance with the law. And we look at it as two separate events.

QUESTION: But what happened after that could be construed as a hostile act. China kept 24 of hour servicemembers for 11 days. So doesn't that influence the way the Pentagon views China as a potential adversary, both for the U.S. and for Taiwan?

QUIGLEY: Again, I was trying to respond to Jamie's questions, and they relate to the sale of arms to Taiwan. And that is rooted in the law -- the Taiwan Relations Act of 1982 -- and it calls for us to take care of the legitimate defensive needs of Taiwan.

QUESTION: By assessing the threat posed by China. And at the Pentagon, the threat is considered capability, fuss (ph), intention and motivation.

QUESTION: The actions of the last two weeks in China, doesn't that indicate something about intentions?

QUIGLEY: We certainly don't believe that the Chinese should have detained our aircrew for 12 days. But neither do I think -- I have not heard anybody discuss that in any way of a threat toward the United States interests. We don't agree that they should have detained the aircrew, and we think they should release the aircraft immediately. But I put a big difference between their conduct in those two regards and somehow being perceived as a threat to the United States.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up-to-date on the latest planning process from this end about involving possibly some industry team members in a co-civilian-military expedition to either dismantle and bring back the aircraft or some other way dispose of it, should a decision be made by the delegation to do that?

QUIGLEY: Thinking our way through how we get the aircraft back to the United States, you really end up having to start at the beginning. And that is to get a team of aeronautical engineers familiar with the construction of the EP-3 on to the ground and take a look at the airplane in much more detail than the perfectly qualified aircrew could do, but they are not aeronautical engineers. So you don't need to make the plane perfect, you need to make the plane safe to fly.

So they need to go over the aircraft and understand the full extent of the damage and, from that, then determine which of those systems you need to repair or replace in order to make the aircraft safe to fly.

If that is doable, and it's acceptable to the Chinese, we could then consider sending in a repair team of some sort with the appropriate parts and the tools and the auxiliary equipment you would need to effect the repairs and fly the plane out.

If the plane is not flyable or if that solution is not acceptable to the Chinese for one reason or another, an alternative might be to literally disassemble the plane and then figure out a way to either fly the parts of the airplane off the island or ship them off the island in crates or something.

And we simply haven't worked that through, although both of those are doable options. You can disassemble the plane if it is beyond the capability to repair as it sits or if that's unacceptable to the Chinese.

QUESTION: Lockheed Martin has been approached about contributing perhaps some of their civilian personnel to...

QUIGLEY: I'm sure we would go to wherever the expertise was available to understand the complexities. We'd use in-house abilities as well as contractor skills to make either of those courses of action work.

QUESTION: Is the issue of arms sales to Taiwan currently on schedule? In other words, do you plan to advise Congress and Taiwan on April 24 on what weapons you would be willing to sell the Taiwanese?

QUIGLEY: I believe the Defense Department will discuss it with the Taiwanese representatives on the 24th. I don't believe that the notification to the Congress will go until after that, the next day or a couple of days, I believe.

ALLEN: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley at the Pentagon, talking about the options, among other things, in getting the U.S. reconnaissance plane off Hainan Island; talking about other issues involving the U.S. and China and relations now, and he's making these comments in advance of a second big step in getting the plane off the island and learning more about the future of relations between the U.S. and China.

In just a few hours now, both sides will sit down in Beijing and have an important meeting that CNN will be following for you. So, stay with us for more throughout the day about that.

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