Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD

China, U.S. dig in over spy plane row

A People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing  

In this story:

'Not enough'

'Letter of regret'

Calls for patience

RELATED STORIES, SITES Downward pointing arrow

BEIJING, China -- China and the United States are still at odds over the specific wording of any statement to end the standoff between the two nations following a collision between a Chinese jet fighter and a U.S. Navy spy plane.

Tensions in the standoff appeared to rise on Tuesday, with patience on both sides appearing to wear thin, although it emerged late in the day that U.S. diplomats on Hainan Island had paid a fifth visit to the 24 crew members of the U.S. plane.

CNN's Jamie Mcintyre reports autopilot makes unlikely sudden movement by the U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane

Play video
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver reports on the meeting live on CNN Monday morning by videophone (April 9)

Play video
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

Listen to Condoleezza Rice on CNN's "Late Edition" regarding the standoff between the United States and China

Play video
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)
CNN's Rebecca McKinnon reports on comments made Tuesday by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
986KB/1 min 31 sec
AIFF or WAV sound
graphic U.S.-China Collision: A diplomatic solution
 • About freighter returning EP-3
 • Look: Inside the EP-3
 • Facts about the EP-3
 • Map: Locating the incident
 • Big picture: High stakes
 • Classroom discussion guide
 • Historical US-China timeline
 • Whidbey arrival images
 • Crew speaks out
 • Crew's return images

image Images of some of the U.S. detainees in China
High stakes in standoff

More related stories

As the confrontation entered its tenth day neither side appeared ready to make any concessions, with Chinese officials firmly repeating their statement that they did not accept U.S. expressions of "regret".

This was despite warnings from the U.S. that a protracted quarrel could do irreparable damage to U.S.-China relations in the long-term.

At a press conference by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, officials said they would only accept a formal apology in which the U.S. admitted it was to blame for the collision on April 1 between the Navy plane and the single seat Chinese fighter jet.

The collision sent the Chinese jet crashing into the sea, while the U.S. plane limped 100km to a nearby Chinese air force base at Lingshui on Hainan Island's south coast.

The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, has not been found.

Despite Beijing's demands, the U.S. says the collision was an accident and says a formal apology, in line with Beijing's demands, will not be forthcoming.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the weekend he was "sorry that a life was lost" in the incident, while President George W. Bush has also expressed "regret" over the incident and sent a personal letter of condolence to the wife of the missing Chinese pilot Wang Wei.

'Not enough'

China has described the statements as a step in the right direction, but says neither are enough to end the standoff.

Late Monday, China rejected the third U.S. draft of a letter aimed at ending the standoff.

U.S. officials in Washington told CNN Monday a fourth letter was being drafted and would soon be sent to Chinese officials. The movement of the letters, one official said, showed continued progress toward a resolution.

Still, several officials of the Bush administration said they could not be sure if the standoff would end soon or if the precise language sought by the Chinese could be formulated.

"We're all taking this one day at a time and searching for a way out," one official said.

Meanwhile, a senior Pentagon official has revealed to CNN the U.S. Navy EP-3E plane was on "autopilot" at the time of the collision.

The revelation would seem to contradict the account of a Chinese pilot who said last week that the U.S. plane "suddenly swerved at a wide angle" and hit one of the two fighters, although it's possible the aircraft might have begun a banking maneuver to correct its course while under the automatic control.

'Letter of regret'

U.S. officials say Bush's letter of regret and condolence to the wife of the missing Chinese fighter pilot has been handed over to Chinese authorities.

But at Tuesday's press conference a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to say whether the letter had been delivered.

U.S. officials said they hoped the gesture would undercut some of the rhetoric from Chinese officials about the stance of the U.S. government.

Nonetheless China continues to say the U.S. response to the ongoing standoff is "unacceptable."

"Where is the responsibility? I think it's very clear," said Zhu Bangzao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official traveling with President Jiang Zemin in Argentina.

"The pronouncements of the United States are unacceptable to the Chinese people."

Some U.S. officials say in many respects the Bush administration has gone as far as it intends to go in its expressions of regret and that the stalemate must end soon or lasting damage to the U.S.-China relationship could be inevitable.

Bush signaled as much earlier in the day when he said, "every day that goes by increases the potential that our relations with China could be damaged and our hope is that this matter gets resolved quickly."

Calls for patience

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats who have experience with China are urging patience.

"The Chinese are negotiating just as they always do when they hold all of the cards," said former U.S. ambassador to China James Sasser.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi says China will not accept U.S expressions of regret  

"They're going very slowly, very painstakingly, and drawing it out. Now we're really negotiating over words and a question of semantics."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered Monday to help resolve the standoff.

Speaking in New York, Annan said the two Security Council powers seemed to be making progress, adding that he hopes "direct discussions" will lead to results.

"If my good offices are needed, I'm always available," he told CNN's Richard Roth.

Joseph Prueher, the current U.S. Ambassador to China, said that negotiations aimed at the release of the Navy crew were ongoing, despite the apparent inflexibility of the two positions.

"We are in dialogue with our counterparts and we hope we're moving a little closer to a solution," he said.

But China's critics in U.S. Congress and the Bush administration are pondering possible ways to punish China, including revoking China's favorable trade status with the United States, canceling a planned Bush visit to Beijing in the fall and opposing China's bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

Chinese pilot's wife sends Bush emotional letter
Vietnam faults U.S. in plane standoff
Jiang unfazed during Latin America visit
China gains leverage in U.S. spy plane incident
Fighter pilots classed as '5'
Martyrdom for missing Chinese pilot

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

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top