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