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Powell Hopes Meeting Leads to Return of U.S. Plane

Powell Hopes Meeting Leads to Return of U.S. Plane, Crew

Excerpts: Powell Hopes Meeting Leads to Return of U.S. Plane, Crew

(Secretary of State's April 3 news conference in Key West)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said he hopes the meeting of U.S. diplomats with the crew of a U.S. aircraft forced to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan signals the beginning of the end of the incident.

Powell made his remarks during a press conference April 3 in Key West, Florida where he is seeking to help resolve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Earlier in the day, he met separately with Armenian President Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev.

The incident with China began on March 31 when a U.S. aircraft and a Chinese fighter plane collided over international waters and the American craft was forced to land on the island of Hainan.

Powell said he hopes the meeting between the diplomats and the crewmembers would lead to "the rapid release of all of the members of the crew back to the United States so they can be returned to their organizations and returned to their families, and I also hope that it also will lead to the rapid return of our airplane."

In response to a question about the incident and the upcoming Bush administration decision on Taiwan's arms request, Powell said he would like to keep the two issues separate.

But, he added, "I am a little concerned about the way in which the Chinese Government has handled this matter."

Following are excerpts from a transcript of the press conference:

(begin excerpts)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Key West, Florida) For Immediate Release

April 3, 2001



Truman Little White House Key West, Florida

QUESTION: Could you give us an update of your understanding of the situation with the plane in China, and also your assessment of the diplomatic damage that it may have done to Sino-American relations?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. The latest information I have is that our consular and attaché officials are now meeting with the crew members all together at one time. They will have a meeting for about 40 minutes. I don't have a report of that meeting, but I am pleased that it is taking place.

I hope that is the beginning of an end to this incident. I hope that this meeting will lead to the rapid release of all of the members of the crew back to the United States so they can be returned to their organizations and returned to their families, and I also hope that it also will lead to the rapid return of our airplane.

So I am encouraged by the fact that the meeting is taking place. It shouldn't have taken this long to happen, but now that it has happened, I hope this starts us on a road to a full and complete resolution of this matter.

If we resolve this rather quickly, then hopefully it will not affect the overall relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

QUESTION: Is there any chance that if the talks are successful that both presidents will come to Washington at the end of the week to meet President Bush?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it would be premature to suggest that. The negotiations will be very, very difficult. President Bush is watching this week and these negotiations very, very carefully, and I am sure that if there is success at some point in the future, President Bush would wish to see both presidents. Whether it will happen this week or at some time in the future, I don't know.

But let's just hope for progress. But we can't commit to a meeting at this time because we have to see progress. And a reminder that this is just one step on a long road, not the be-all/end-all meeting to get every aspect of this negotiation completed. Just one more step in a long process.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask how the behavior of the Chinese Government in this incident will affect the deliberations and decision within the Administration on arms sales to Taiwan?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't find the two issues connected, arms sales and this. Obviously, when you examine the arms sales question, it is done in the context of our obligations to Taiwan under the policies we have followed with respect to Taiwan and their defensive needs for many years.

So I would like to keep the two issues separate, but I must say I am a little concerned about the way in which the Chinese Government has handled this matter. We could have resolved it much earlier, I think, and without creating the level of interest that there is and the level of difficulty we have encountered.

I think what we have to do now is ask the Chinese to move as quickly as possible, and we are asking them to move as quickly as possible to release our crew members, release our airplane, and let's get back to other matters and put this behind us....

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are some reports that the Chinese have boarded the US aircraft and are taking some equipment off the plane. Do you, in fact, know that this is true? Do you consider this a violation of US sovereignty, so to speak? And what would the repercussions be for that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have heard those reports but I cannot confirm them. We won't be able really to confirm much until we are able to speak to all the members of our crew in a totally open environment. But all I can say is I have heard those reports, I cannot confirm those reports, and I will leave it there because I'd be just hypothesizing on what the consequences might be of such a violation.

We have said that the plane should not be violated. It is protected, in our judgment, from that kind of intrusion. But I can't confirm whether such intrusion has taken place.

Thank you.

(12:15 P.M. EDT)

(end excerpts)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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