Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD

U.S.-China talks fail to settle spy plane dispute

U.S. delegation leader Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Pete Verga enters the US Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday morning
U.S. delegation leader Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Pete Verga enters the US Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday morning  

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Future U.S.-China meetings are on hold after Wednesday's talks over a grounded U.S. intelligence plane produced no results.

U.S. sources said China was unwilling to discuss the return of the surveillance plane that made an emergency landing April 1 on China's Hainan Island.

Chinese news outlets reported that another meeting was scheduled for Thursday. But Joseph Prueher, the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, is expected to tell Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan that the United States will not attend any more talks unless China is willing to discuss the aircraft's return, U.S. officials told CNN.

Video released by the Pentagon shows a Chinese pilot flying so close to a U.S. plane his hand gestures are visible

Play video
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

Analysts say the talks can be described as 'tough.' CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon reports

Play video
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

Rebecca MacKinnon on the agenda, the mood, and the officials involved in the talks

1.8MB/2:58 mins.
AIFF or WAV sound
  • U.S. China resolution shelved by U.N.
  • Academics make freedom plea to China
  • Chinese F-8s carried Israeli missiles
  • U.S. may resume spy flights by end of week
    This computer animation shows how the Pentagon says the collision between a U.S. plane and a Chinese fighter happened

    Play video
    (QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

    Timeline: Overnight calls brought word of release deal
    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


    China would not discuss a U.S. request to send a repair crew to Hainan to get the plane flying again, U.S. officials said.

    Going into the 2 1/2 hours of talks, U.S. officials said they expected "frank" discussions. China has called for an end to U.S. surveillance flights near its borders. The U.S. side had said it will not negotiate the point and wanted to talk about the repair and return of the Navy plane.

    U.S. officials said China "would not engage" on the issue of returning the EP-3 Aries II, which collided with a Chinese fighter over the South China Sea.

    As expected, said U.S. officials, neither side was willing to accept the other's explanation of why the collision occurred.

    Each nation blames the other for the incident, which resulted in the U.S. plane's 24-member crew being held on Hainan for 11 days. The crew left Hainan on April 12, after the U.S. said it was "very sorry" for the loss of a Chinese pilot in the collision and for the plane's emergency landing at a Chinese air base without clearance from Chinese controllers.

    Once the crew was home, U.S. officials blamed the accident on the Chinese pilot's aggressive tactics and released videotapes that they said showed the same pilot approaching to within a few feet of earlier surveillance missions.

    China, however, says it has enough evidence to prove the U.S. side is responsible for the collision, and it called the "so- called evidence" presented by U.S. officials "completely groundless."

    One expert on U.S.-China relations predicted the countries' differences will take time to resolve, particularly as they relate to the reconnaissance flights.

    "The U.S. views these things as missions that help to preserve peace in the area. Now the Chinese look at it differently," said John Holden, president of the National Committee on U.S. China Relations, an educational organization.

    "I think there's gonna be a lot of discussion about that as we go forward for quite a big period of time," he said. "This isn't going to be resolved now. It's related to the Taiwan question, which as you know is a very tricky one. There's a lot of diplomacy that needs to be done."

    CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon and Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.

    U.S.-China talks may set tone for future ties
    April 17, 2001
    Diplomatic obstacles expected at U.S.-China talks
    April 16, 2001
    FBI probes pro-China attacks on U.S. Web sites
    April 16, 2001
    U.S. pilot harbors anger toward Chinese pilot
    Business holds little fear for U.S.-China sanctions
    April 16, 2001
    China honors missing pilot a 'revolutionary martyr'
    April 16, 2001
    Diplomatic obstacles expected at U.S.-China talks
    April 16, 2001
    Congress considers China sanctions
    April 15, 2001
    Chinese pilot 'harassed' U.S. crew
    April 13, 2001
    Careful language breaks Washington-Beijing impasse
    April 11, 2001

    U.S. Navy factfile: The EP-3
    U.S. Dept of Defense
    White House
    Government Information Office, Republic of China
    Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America

    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