China combs sea for missing pilot
HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- China continues to search for a F-8 fighter pilot believed to have parachuted from his aircraft after a collision with a U.S. spy plane over the South China Sea.
The State-run Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday that almost a dozen ships and more than 20 aircraft had been combing the ocean about 100km south-east of Hainan Island, off the south coast of mainland China.
The search group has been operating around the clock since the F-8 fighter jet collided with the much larger, propeller-powered U.S. EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane on Sunday morning, Xinhua said.
So far the pilot, whose name is yet to be disclosed, remains missing.
Xinhua said the Navy and a sea rescue unit in Guangzhou in China's southern Guangdong province had dispatched the rescue fleet soon after the pilot ejected from his jet. It is not known at what speed or altitude the pilot was traveling when he ejected.
Chinese Communist Party secretary Jiang Zemin on numerous occasions instructed the Navy and relevant departments to take "utmost effort" in organizing the search, according to Xinhua.
Xinhua said: "Jiang is extremely concerned about the safety of our parachuted pilot". However, it did not provide any further details about whether any debris from the plane or evidence of the pilot had been found.
Although Beijing has not openly labeled the incident as an accident, Xinhua said the collision was caused "by chance".
A Xinhua spokesman, He Dalong, said any country had the right to send its fighters to intercept foreign aircraft that has invaded its sovereign air space.
"This time our military plane followed the U.S. surveillance plane, and the two collided -- it was caused by occasional factors," He said on an online forum on the agency's website.
But he went on to blame the U.S. aircraft for causing the accident.
"The U.S. plane suddenly turned towards our jet, causing our military aircraft to crash, and the pilot went missing," He said.
The search for the pilot continues.
China grants U.S. access to spy plane crew
Xinhua news agency - Chinese language
U.S. 'ready to talk' with N. Korea
Death toll nears 1,000 in South Asia's cold spell
IAEA: Year for Iraq inspections
U.S. doubles forces in Persian Gulf
Mugabe resignation offer proposed
OPEC to raise daily oil output
N. Y. plans to heal skyline
Stocks rise on Case departure
Lieberman's presidential announcement today
New arrests may be linked to UK ricin scare
Jordan says farewell for the third time
Shaq could miss playoff game for child's birth
Ex-USOC official says athletes bent drug rules
|Back to the top||
© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.