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Officials Say Apology to China is Not Appropriate

Cheney, Powell Say an Apology to China is Not Appropriate
(Harm seen to U.S.-China relations the longer dispute goes on, they say)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell said April 8 that the United States will not offer an apology to China stemming from a midair collision between a Chinese F-8 fighter jet and a U.S. Navy EP-3E (ARIES II) maritime patrol aircraft April 1 over the South China Sea.

Cheney said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday talk show that President George W. Bush "had made it clear we regret the loss of the Chinese pilot as a result of this accident. The notion that we would apologize for being in international air space, for example, is not something we can accept."

Powell said on Fox's "News Sunday" talk show that the relationship between the United States and China is being damaged the longer this dispute goes unresolved. "We've got to bring this matter to a close as soon as possible ... to get our youngsters back and see if we can minimize the damage to our relationship."

And Powell said that the United States has expressed regrets and sorrow over the life that has been lost as a result of the accident. But, he added "the question of apology is something quite different, because then we are being asked to accept responsibility. And that we have not done, can't do, and therefore won't apologize for that."

According to official reports from the U.S. Pacific Command, a U.S. Navy EP-3E patrol aircraft was conducting a reconnaissance mission approximately 70 miles south of Hainan island over international waters in the South China Sea when a midair collision occurred between the Navy aircraft with a crew of 24 on board and a Chinese air force F-8 fighter jet. The U.S. pilot and crew managed to control the four-engine turboprop aircraft, but because of extensive damage were forced to make an emergency landing at the Lingshui air base on Hainan island where they have been detained by Chinese military authorities in a military guest house. U.S. diplomats in China have visited the crewmembers three times since the plane landed April 1, local time in China, according to official government reports. The Chinese pilot of the F-8 fighter jet is missing at sea and is presumed dead, according to published news reports.

"The longer this goes on without resolution, clearly the more difficult it becomes to manage the relationship and avoid risk to the long-term relationship with China, but we are making progress," Cheney said on ABC's "This Week" television program.

Cheney said "intense" diplomatic efforts are continuing for the release of the crew and the Navy EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft. "We are engaged, I would say, in intense diplomatic activity on the issue with respect to the EP-3 in China, but there is nothing to announce at this point," he told ABC News.

Cheney further said that it is essential that "quiet diplomacy" be used to resolve the issue rather than be inflamed by using "hot button" words.

U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition" that the United States has done nothing wrong in this accident, and "an apology is not forthcoming." Chinese officials have asked for a full apology from the United States for the accident. "It is time now to resolve the problem," she said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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