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Bush Expresses Regret Over Missing Chinese Pilot

Bush Expresses Regret Over Missing Chinese Pilot, Stresses Return of US Crew

Transcript: Bush Q&A on China at Newspaper Editors Convention (President says he wants "good relations," but China has to act)

President Bush says he regrets that a Chinese pilot is missing and that one of their airplanes is lost as a result of the recent accident over the South China Sea, adding "our prayers go out to the pilot and his family."

But Bush made clear that "our prayers are also with our own servicemen and women and they need to come home."

Speaking April 5 in a question and answer session following his formal remarks at a meeting in Washington of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Bush said his intent is not to let the incident in the air over the South China Sea destabilize relations between the two countries.

"My intention is to make sure we do have good relations," with China he said, "but the Chinese have got to act and I hope they do so quickly."

In response to a question about trade with China, the President said he was "an advocate of China's entering into the WTO" and was "hopeful that the current situation ends quickly and our people come home."

Following is the White House transcript of the Q&A, after the formal address:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary

April 5, 2001


The J.W. Marriott Hotel Washington, D.C.

1:17 P.M. EDT

QUESTION: I was wondering if, in the spirit of civility and conciliation you were talking about, whether you think that when it comes to appointing members to the federal bench, and especially if there are vacancies to the Supreme Court, that you should try, before appointments are made, to engage in a bipartisan conversation with Democrats in the United States Senate who have already indicated that they might be taking a very hard line if they believe you're sending up nominees that are philosophically extreme? Or do you feel that you are like any other President, and should operate on the principle of you propose and let them dispose?

THE PRESIDENT: The latter. We're going to pick the most qualified people we can find, people that share my philosophy about strict constructionism on the Court. I'll be mindful of confirmation. I don't particularly want a big fight in the Senate. And so we'll be putting out -- we'll be gathering intelligence as to whether or not a person can be confirmed or not. I made decide to send somebody up that will create a tough fight. I don't know. I haven't gotten there yet.

But of course, I pick somebody I want them to get confirmed. And so we'll be mindful of that. Obviously I've made a lot of other -- another decision about whether or not we ought to have screening agencies or screening groups, people to screen our people, and I decided not to do that. We'll get a lot of opinions, and not one opinion is more important than another, as far as my administration's concerned. And so we'll pick the people, and the Senate can hopefully confirm them. Q: Do you believe it's appropriate for the Chinese to be questioning our airmen that have been downed? And also, what do you believe the Chinese have put at risk with their actions?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate you bringing up the subject. I want to make this clear. First, I regret that a Chinese pilot is missing, and I regret one of their airplanes is lost. And our prayers go out to the pilot, his family. Our prayers are also with our own servicemen and women. And they need to come home.

The message to the Chinese is, we should not let this incident destabilize relations. Our relationship with China is very important. But they need to realize that it's time for our people to be home. We're working all diplomatic channels to affect our priority. There's discussions going on. And we'll continue to do so. My mission is to bring the people home.

And as to whether or not we'll have good relations, my intention is to make sure we do have good relations. But the Chinese have got to act. And I hope they do so quickly.

Q: Following up on that, are there any circumstances in which you would offer an apology to the Chinese? And secondly, are you having any second thoughts about your decision to go to China later this year?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no further comments on the subject. That won't count as a question.

Q: Sir, as you know, at the heart of this newspaper organization is its passion for preserving and enhancing the nation's access to information. Would you take this moment to articulate your own view of First Amendment freedoms, and give us a sense of the fundamental message that you will send to your administration as it makes decisions on whether to open or close access to government information?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. There needs to be balance when it comes to freedom of information laws. There's some things that when I discuss in the privacy of the Oval Office or national security matters that just should not be in the national arena.

On the other hand, my administration will cooperate fully with freedom of information requests if it doesn't jeopardize national security, for example. The interesting problem I have, or for me, as the President, is what's personal and what's not personal. Frankly, I haven't been on the job long enough to have been -- to have had to make those choices.

I'll give you one area, though, where I'm very cautious, and that's about e-mailing. I used to be an avid e-mailer, and I e-mailed to my daughters or e-mailed to my father, for example. And I don't want those e-mails to be in public -- in the public domain. So I don't e-mail any more, out of concern for freedom of information laws, but also concern for my privacy.

But we'll cooperate with the press, unless we think it's a matter of national security, or something that's entirely private.

Q: I hope you will respond to this question. It's on the Asia subject, but general.

THE PRESIDENT: I might; I'm not sure yet.

Q: In my region, we have strong economic interests in Asia as an export market. Would you please comment on the balance that you think should be struck between our strategic interests and our economic interests in Asia, including China?

THE PRESIDENT: I believe that China ought to be a trading partner of ours. I think it's in our economic interests to open up the Chinese markets to U.S. products, to U.S. agricultural products. I not only believe it's in our economic interest, I believe it's in our interest to promote U.S. values.

And I believe the marketplace promotes values. When people get a taste of freedom in the marketplace, they tend to demand other freedoms in their societies. And so, I'm an advocate of China's entering into the WTO and I'm hopeful that the current situation ends quickly and our people come home.

China is a strategic partner, a strategic competitor. But that doesn't mean we can't find areas in which we can partner. And the economy's a place where we can partner. And we've got some differences with China, long-term differences, spreading of weapons of mass destruction is an issue that we need to work with the Chinese on, as well as other nations in that part of the world.

Human rights is an issue, but I believe trade will encourage more freedom, particularly when it comes to individual liberties. The marketplace is -- the marketplace unleashes the opportunity for people to make choices, and so I continue to push for trade with China, and --

Q: All of us here flew in for this conference. Most of us had delays of one type or another. Earlier this week --

THE PRESIDENT: Most of you -- sorry?

Q: Had delays at airports. Earlier this week, there was a report issued which was critical of the airline industries and the mounting problems with service and people getting around the country.

I guess my question, coming from Northwest Indiana, where the debate is whether to have a third Chicago airport or not, what's your administration going to try and do to solve this ongoing problem?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing we need to do is expand the number of runways all around America. And as you know, there's a lot of environmental regulations, some of them meaningful, some of them not, that prohibit the expansion of runways. And step one is to increase accessibility, which will then make it easier to increase competition.

As to your question about whether or not there ought to be a third airport in the Illinois area -- I mean Chicago area, I haven't made up my mind yet.

Q: I'm getting the signal from your --

THE PRESIDENT: Getting the hook? Thank you for having me.

(end White House transcript of Q&A)

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

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