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Powell's Public Comments Helps Ease Intensity of Chinese Standoff

Aired April 5, 2001 - 14:50   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: The administration speaking today in very careful terms about what's happening with China. Andrea Koppel joins us now from the State Department with the very latest.

Andrea, what can you tell us?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeanne, for the first time, I can tell you that State Department officials are using words like "positive"; they feel that they have made some progress in these talks, these very intensive talks that they have been involved in now for a number of days with their Chinese counterparts.

And part of reason for the progress, they say, had to do with Secretary of State Powell's public comments yesterday, his public expressions of regret for the apparent loss of life of that Chinese pilot, and now today, the reiteration of that expression of regret from President Bush himself.

Just this morning, Chinese ambassador to Washington was here; it was his 4th trip to the State Department in last week. He met with senior officials here. And it was during that meeting, I'm told, Jeanne that the ambassador expressed this positive response to Secretary Powell's letter. This was a letter that Powell gave him last night for China's Vice Premier Qian Qichen.

Qian Qichen, if you remember, was here in Washington a couple of weeks ago and Powell had spent quite a bit of time with him, and feel that they know one another now. And so, Secretary Powell's letter went over quite well with Chinese officials. And now, Jeanne, officials say that this is a very sensitive moment. They feel that some of the pieces to this puzzle have come into place. They don't feel they are there yet.

And, of course, the big thing they're working towards is confirmation that they would be able to gain the release of the 24 Americans. So, at the moment, they are in a very intense phase. They feel that they are making some progress, but they are not there yet.

MESERVE: Andrea, why do they think things have come this far? Is it a reflection, simply, of the intensity of the conversations?

KOPPEL: It's a combination of things. What I'm told, is that the Chinese pay very close attention to how a message is delivered, not only the words and the context of the message, but also, who is delivering the message and yesterday, you had one of the most senior U.S. officials, Secretary of State Powell, expressing a couple of times in one statement, an expression of regret.

The Chinese had been waiting to hear that. They have been waiting to hear an apology, if you will, but that this is at least the Americans hope, some sort of step in that direction. Then today, hearing that message reiterated by President Bush is further confirmation that at the very highest levels of the U.S. government, Jeanne, the U.S. is acknowledging there is some reason for the Chinese to be feeling as angry as they are.

MESERVE: Andrea Koppel at the State Department. Thank you so much.

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