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'China is the injured party,' ambassador says

Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Yang Jiechi tells CNN that the U.S. should apologize to China  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- China's envoy to the United States repeated Beijing's call for an apology Wednesday for the collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter.

"China is the injured party. First of all, the responsibility issue must be clearly defined," Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi told CNN in an interview Wednesday.

China has detained 24 American fliers from the electronic surveillance plane involved in the collision, and a Chinese fighter pilot has been missing since the collision and is presumed dead.

CNN's Frank Sesno talks with the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. about the plane collision and detained U.S. crew

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U.S. officials say it sees no need to apologize for what they consider an accident that occurred over international waters.

Yang conceded the aircraft was in international airspace, but "in an area very close to the airspace of China." He compared the situation to a reckless driver in a neighborhood who kills a family member.

"I think the family has every right to ask why, why have you done that? And we have to do some examination. We have to do some investigation," he said.

The U.S. crew, meanwhile, could remain in China while Chinese authorities investigate the incident.

"The Chinese side has every right to carry out an investigation. So the crew members are in China because the investigation is going on," Yang said.

End surveillance, China says

Asked how long the dispute could continue, he said Chinese authorities want to see it resolved quickly -- but added, "Maybe we should ask some of your countrymen how long it should go on."

"What we've heard so far is, 'You are to blame. Our airplane wouldn't do anything like that.' We have all the facts to show the American airplane made an abrupt turn," Yang said.

His comments follow similar ones by China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and President Jiang Zemin. Jiang also has called for the United States to end the kind of surveillance flights that the crew of the EP-3 Aries II was carrying out at the time of the collision.

"Let's say that if a Chinese airplane should do the same thing up and down the eastern seaboard and western seaboard of the United States, and you lost your airplane -- you lost your airman -- you would demand an explanation from the Chinese side," he said. "We have not heard anything like that."

Asked about reports that Chinese troops have removed gear from the highly sophisticated intelligence-gathering plane, Yang rejected U.S. claims that the aircraft is sovereign territory and said China can board the aircraft in the course of its investigation.

A senior Pentagon official said the 24-member crew "successfully executed" a plan to destroy sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment before leaving the plane. Pentagon officials did not elaborate on what was destroyed or how it was destroyed.

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The Pentagon
U.S. Navy
Navy Fact File: EP-3E ORION (ARIES II) Aircraft
U.S. Department of Defense
Government of China (in Chinese)
U.S. Department of State
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the U.S.A.
Government Information Office, Republic of China

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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