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Hastert questions 'appropriateness' of congressional trips to China

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, "expressed concerns" Wednesday about the "appropriateness" of a trade trip that a group of congressmen is planning to China over the April recess, in light of the standoff between Beijing and Washington over the continued detention of a U.S. Navy plane and its crew.

"The Speaker has made it known that you want to be careful on those things," Hastert spokesman John Feehery said. He said the speaker approved the trip before the recent diplomatic flare-up between the U.S. and China.

The itinerary for the trip, which is scheduled to begin Saturday, remains in flux, but a planned stop in Shanghai is supposed to focus on Internet commerce, high technology and trade. The group will visit other Asian countries as well.

A spokesman for Rep. David Dreier, R-California, who is leading the delegation, said his office has been discussing the trip with Hastert and the White House and will make a decision that is consistent with the administration's approach.

Another trip that Sen. Don Nickles, R-Oklahoma, is scheduled to take with the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce this week remained a go Wednesday afternoon but it is subject to change, a spokesman for the second ranking Republican in the Senate said.

A third trip, sponsored by the Aspen Institute, is planning several stops in China for a group of current and former members of congress. It is scheduled to begin Monday.

The non-profit Aspen Institute frequently leads trips to expose bipartisan groups of members of Congress to other countries with the goal of improving U.S. ties with those countries, according to spokesman for the group.

At a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, a vocal critic of China, urged his fellow members to cancel their trips.

"Members of Congress should cancel their trips. The American citizens who were looking at the situation and thinking about going to China either for business or vacation should cancel their trips immediately. Until our 24 military personnel are returned, they should be considered as hostages, being held by a hostile power," he said.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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