Chinese Forced U.S. Spy Plane to Land, Paper Says : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

04/09 00:17 Chinese Forced U.S. Spy Plane to Land, Paper Says (Update1) By Michael Forsythe

Hong Kong, April 9 (Bloomberg) -- A Chinese fighter jet forced the U.S. Navy spy plane at the center of a diplomatic row to land in Hainan province after the Chinese pilot was denied permission to shoot the aircraft down, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified Chinese officials.

The EP-3E Aries II plane, which carries sophisticated electronic eavesdropping equipment, landed after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet midair on April 1, resulting in the Chinese plane crashing into the South China Sea.

After seeing the plane crash, the pilot of a second Chinese fighter at the scene radioed ground control for permission to shoot down the U.S. aircraft. His request was refused, the report said.

``The officials at ground control were cool-headed,'' it cited a source as saying. The pilot ``could have shot the plane down, but that would have meant the death of 24 airmen. It would have been an act of war.''

The navy plane remains at an airfield in the southern part of Hainan island, where its crew has been held for nine days, as talks to resolve the standoff continue between Beijing and Washington.

A senior People's Liberation Army officer wrestled with an unidentified Navy crewman when the Chinese tried to board the plane in Hainan, the paper said.

Meantime, the head of a U.S. delegation is continuing to seek increased access to the crewmembers, who are being held in officers' barracks at an undisclosed location in Haikou. Requests to see the crew yesterday were rebuffed by Chinese officials.

Diplomatic Presence

``We are working hard for unfettered daily access to the crew, and we've asked to see them twice a day,'' Brigadier General Neil Sealock, the Beijing-based U.S. defense attache to China, told reporters.

The U.S. stepped up its diplomatic presence on the island. At least three officials arrived over the weekend, bringing the total number of personnel to ``more than 10,'' according to Salome Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the delegation.

The delegation was allowed to meet the crew three times last week. In the last meeting, which occurred at about 1 a.m. Sunday morning, the Chinese permitted Sealock and Guangzhou-based consular officer Ted Gong to see eight of the crewmembers.

The pilot of the second Chinese fighter jet involved in the incident said the two aircraft were tracking the U.S. plane at a distance of about 400 meters when the Navy aircraft veered abruptly, causing the collision.

Search Operation

The collision appears to have been an accident that resulted from the Chinese pilot following the U.S. plane too closely, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington.

``There is no basis to believe our crew did anything wrong,'' Powell said on the ``Fox News Sunday'' program. The U.S. had informed the Chinese previously that their planes were flying too near to U.S. surveillance flights.

The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, hasn't been found, though a search continues. More than 800 vessels have been involved in the operation. Today's Hainan Daily said fishing vessels from Hong Kong and Macao had joined in the search south of the resort town of Sanya.

U.S. President George W. Bush sent a cable to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, expressing his ``regrets'' to Ruan Guoqin, wife of the missing pilot. The letter is in reply to a letter she wrote to Bush, calling him ``too cowardly'' to apologize.

About 95 percent of people polled in an online survey conducted by People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, said the U.S. should apologize for the midair collision.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll of 505 Americans over the weekend found 54 percent opposed to any formal apology.

The Chinese continue to press the issue. ``The U.S. should apologize to the Chinese people and take effective measures to avoid another similar matter from happening,'' People's Daily quoted Defense Minister Chi Haotian as saying.

Powell said ``intense'' diplomatic efforts to release the crew continue. ``Things are moving along,'' Powell said. ``There has been some progress.''

-- Carl Jenkins (, April 09, 2001

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