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U.S/China Standoff: China to Release U.S. Crew Members

Aired April 11, 2001 - 06:23   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: We are tracking a breaking story for you now: word from Chinese state-run media that the 24 U.S. crew members of that Navy spy plane will be released. Now, we don't have details about what exactly broke the impasse, but we can tell you that there is a news conference scheduled in Beijing at 7:00 Eastern Time this morning.

That's just about 40 minutes from now -- a simultaneous press conference scheduled on Hainan Island in China. We're expecting to get more details at that point. But the headline: U.S. crew members, according to state-run media, will be released.

JASON CARROLL, CNN ANCHOR: Those crew members being held now for 11 days after that midair bump with the Chinese fighter jet. The Chinese pilot, at this point, is presumed dead. Negotiations, as you know, were going back and forth -- really seemed to hinge on the word "sorry."

Now, just recently, the papers -- the Chinese papers had come out saying that Colin Powell had expressed "sorry," his apologies for what had happened to the Chinese pilot.

Right now, we are going to go to Rebecca MacKinnon, who is live for us, right now, in Beijing, with the very latest.

Rebecca, good morning.

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Chinese state-run television has just announced that the 24 crew members will be released, although it appears not instantaneously.

The statement read on the state television said that Ambassador Joseph Prueher and China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan had a good meeting after the U.S. side expressed deep sorrow for the collision and the loss of the Chinese fighter pilot.

The Chinese side, in the spirit of humanitarianism and consideration of family members, has decided to release the crew members after completing the various details and necessary paperwork.

So it is not clear exactly when the crew members will be released, exactly what it's going to take, what details do need to be worked out, before they can go home. But the announcement is that they are going home -- back to you.

STOUFFER: Rebecca, a quick question for you. You talked about that they -- that the sources, anyway, in this statement, said that the U.S. officials are expressing deep sorrow for their collision and the loss of the fighter pilot. Is that a new way of expressing this regret?

MACKINNON: Well, this is, in other words, it's saying "sorry." It's saying "very sorry," saying that the United States is expressing sincere regret. So, this, in other words, is an acceptance.

It appears we have not seen the full Chinese text in writing of this yet. But it does appear that what this means is that China has accepted, basically, a characterization of sorry that the United States felt was acceptable, assuming, perhaps, not full responsibility, but at the same time regretting the incident.

STOUFFER: Rebecca MacKinnon, live on the phone for us out of Beijing, thank you very much. I know you're going to get to that press conference yourself.

And, of course, CNN will have live coverage of that press conference from the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing -- a simultaneous press conference being held on Hainan Island in China.

CARROLL: Just to recap here just a little bit for you: U.S. and Chinese officials apparently had a good meeting -- that's according to Rebecca -- after the U.S. side had expressed deep sorrow for this standoff, this incident between the U.S. and China.

The Chinese officials there deciding to release the 24 crew members based on humanitarian reasons. Some of the details surrounding this release are still going to be coming out. Apparently, this release will happen after paperwork is completed and some other details. Exactly when they will be released, at this point, we are unsure. But, again, we're going to be looking for more details on this.

STOUFFER: That's right -- good news, though, for the families of those 24 U.S. crew members.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

STOUFFER: We're working this story from all angles. From the Pentagon, the White House, and of course from China.

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