Rebecca MacKinnon: Little progress in U.S.-China talks
Rebecca MacKinnon is CNN's Beijing bureau chief and correspondent responsible for the network's news coverage of China.
Q: What was on the agenda for the talks between the U.S. and China, and was any progress made on these issues?
MacKinnon: It appears that the only progress that was made in these two days of talks here in Beijing this week, was that the two sides agreed that they would hold further talks at a later date, they haven't given up hope. Other than that, there was very little agreement, and both sides even portrayed the agenda quite differently, China saying that the agenda was focused around the Chinese demand to halt all U.S. surveillance flights near China's coast and finding a way to prevent these incidents from happening again, the U.S. placing prominently on its agenda the return of the EP-3 spy plane from China to the United States. In fact, the talks nearly broke down completely over this issue after the first session on Wednesday. The U.S. indicated it would not hold another round of talks unless the Chinese agreed to constructively discuss the return of the EP-3 spy plane. It appears that the Chinese did discuss it, but in public, the foreign ministry would not even admit to having discussed the issue of returning the plane, let alone indicate whether China actually intends to give it back.
Q: Is there any indication that either side plans any concessions to reach a solution?
MacKinnon: If either side is planning on making concessions, neither side is giving away that intention at this point. The Chinese continue to demand that the U.S. halt all surveillance flights, the U.S. side has said, however, that it may resume those flights as early as sometime later this week. The Chinese side has not specifically indicated what it will do if this happens, except to repeat its demand that the flights halt, and to say that the United States will be held responsible for any further deterioration in the relationship, and that it is the U.S. that should be held responsible for repairing the damage done to the relationship so far.
Q: Both the U.S. and China have made accusations about where the blame lies for the plane incident. Did these accusations carry over to affect the mood of both parties involved?
MacKinnon: It certainly seemed to affect the mood. When The Pentagon released video earlier this week and last week of what it said was reckless behavior by the Chinese fighter pilot, Wang Wei, there seemed to be a certain amount of anger and indignation over the fact that the Chinese would not accept what the United States considers to be the truth about the collision. The Chinese side also displayed a great deal of anger that the U.S. has sullied the honor of China's fighter pilot, Wang Wei, who is now assumed to be dead in the South China Sea, a man who has been declared a "revolutionary martyr." The Chinese feel that he was only doing his job, that he was defending Chinese territory, trying to keep U.S. surveillance flights away from the border with Chinese air space, and he had done nothing wrong. There is a great deal of indignation here about the fact that the United States finds it necessary to send so many reconnaissance flights to the area around China's borders.
Q: When is the next set of talks expected to take place?
MacKinnon: There has been no indication at this point when the next set of talks will take place. It appears they will definitely not be here in Beijing this week. The two sides have said they will remain in contact through diplomatic channels, but there is no indication how long it is going to take to get another round of talks. Diplomats who are familiar with the negotiations have privately indicated that they expect there may be some time allowed to pass before the two sides try to meet again to enable tempers to calm down a little bit, to enable this issue to get a bit further out of the public eye and away from public attention for a while, and then try and have negotiatiors talk in a less high profile and calmer manner.
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