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Breaking News

Chinese Authorities Have Boarded U.S. Plane

Aired April 2, 2001 - 12:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, let's check and see what the comments are coming right now from Beijing. Our bureau chief there, Rebecca MacKinnon, reports now with some live developments there -- Rebecca?

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Leon, CNN has just learned from a Chinese source that the plane, the U.S. plane was boarded by Chinese authorities at the Lingshui Air Force Base soon after it landed. And the crew members, according to this source, are now being held. They've been separated. Each is being held individually.

Now the version from this source of what happened is that apparently the U.S. plane came near Chinese air space and the Chinese F-8 jet fighters were scrambling to pursue it. And in the game of -- this has been described before as something of a game of chicken that ensued, the U.S. plane took a turn. The Chinese planes tried to follow or repeat the same kind of turn and somehow lost control. A collision between the U.S. aircraft and one of the Chinese aircraft ensued. Exactly who hit whom remains unclear. And the Chinese aircraft went down.

Then, according to the Chinese source, the Chinese believe that at that time the U.S. entered Chinese air space and then the U.S. plane ended up making the emergency landing at the Lingshui Air Force Base -- Leon?

HARRIS: Rebecca, have you heard anything about why these men are kept separately and where they are right now at this particular point and whether or not they will be allowed to speak with the U.S. Embassy officials there or directly back with Washington?

MACKINNON: Well, Leon, we do not have any further details at this time about exactly where these crew members are or exactly why they have been separated. The U.S. officials who are now in Hainan not too far from the air force base are basically sitting in a resort hotel waiting for a meeting with the Chinese officials so that they can try and regain contact with the crew members.

However, last we spoke to these U.S. diplomats, they had not any access to any American service people. They did not know where they were and they had not succeeded in having any meetings with Chinese officials about the situation. So the U.S. side becoming increasingly frustrated as this report comes out that the Chinese did, indeed, board the plane and that the crew members are, indeed, being held -- Leon?

HARRIS: Well, the fact that they boarded that plane may be a real sticking point coming up because we've heard U.S. officials say that was something they were going to be adamant about, not having any Chinese officials on board that plane. Do you know whether or not, according to your source, they boarded the plane only the one time when it was grounded or if they have been on it consistently since then?

MACKINNON: Leon, our source is not clear. The source was only able to tell us that the plane was boarded very soon after it arrived. The extent to which it may have been searched, whether or not it was boarded repeatedly, is not clear. Our source was not able to tell us that -- Leon?

HARRIS: That's understood. All right, thanks very much. Our Beijing bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon reporting live with breaking news from Beijing.

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