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China May Discuss U.S. Detainees in Press Conferences Today

Aired April 11, 2001 - 06:03   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.
LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: Back to our breaking story right now.

We have the opportunity to take you live to Beijing -- that's where CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon is standing by, with the latest on the U.S.-China standoff.

Hello, Rebecca.

What's the latest there?

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Hello, Linda.

Well, as I reported to you just little while ago, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has indeed announced a press conference for less than an hour from now. There will be a simultaneous press conference on the island of Hainan, where the 24 U.S. crewmembers are being held.

We also know that the U.S. ambassador to China, Joseph Prueher, has gone to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Neither government is commenting on what any of this means, but we do know that Bush administration officials had told CNN, roughly 12 hours or so ago, that U.S. diplomats have been working with the Chinese on a letter that they hope would resolve the dispute and secure the release of the 24 crewmembers in Hainan.

They had said that previous drafts of this letter had involved an exchange of explanations about how the collision between the two airplanes did happen and also allow for a joint investigation into the incident. However, U.S. sources had told CNN that the Chinese had rejected previous drafts of this letter. It's not clear whether they will announce an agreement about the letter, whether they will announce agreement about how the 24 U.S. crewmembers will be handled, or when they might be released. We're just going to have to wait and see -- Linda.

STOUFFER: And Rebecca, although we can't know exactly what they're going to say, clearly, this is different from recent days. I mean, the simultaneous press conference. It sounds like they must have some development.

MACKINNON: Yes, this is very unusual. The Chinese Foreign Ministry almost never holds unscheduled press conferences, unless they have something that they consider extremely important that they need to get out immediately. So we definitely do expect something of significance to be coming out, at this point, especially because there is a press conference going on simultaneously down on Hainan Island -- Linda.

STOUFFER: And Rebecca, I'd like to get your take on what is in the Chinese newspapers today. What's different about the coverage today on this story?

MACKINNON: Well, there have been a couple of things that have pointed to the fact that the Chinese government might be preparing public opinion here for movement on this crisis. One is that the Chinese newspapers have been prominently reporting the fact that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell used the word "sorry," in a television interview on a Sunday morning talk show, when he talked about how he was sorry that the U.S. plane had entered Chinese airspace.

Now, the context they used it in was a little bit different than his original wording. He had talked about how it was an emergency landing and the crew had little choice, but he was sorry that they ended up entering Chinese airspace. That was not quite spelled out in the Chinese version. However, this is considered to be an indication that the Chinese government is moving to get the public to accept the fact that the United States has changed its attitude -- Linda.

STOUFFER: Rebecca, thank you very much. We'll be speaking with you a little bit later -- Rebecca MacKinnon, live for us, out of Beijing. She was on the telephone with us just there.

Again, just to recap: A press conference is expected just less than an hour from now. CNN will be bringing you that press conference from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing live. There will be a simultaneous press conference from Hainan Island, in China. That's where the 24 Americans have been detained for the 11th day now.

You might remember this collision happened in the air between a U.S. Navy spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet. The pilot of that Chinese fighter jet is missing and now presumed dead.

U.S. officials have been able to meet with the 24 crewmembers from the United States several times. They met most recently yesterday.

And again, we are expecting some kind of announcement less than an hour from now. CNN will be bringing that to you live.

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