President Bush Urges Chinese To Resolve Issue
President Bush Urges Chinese To Resolve U.S. Crew Issue
White House Report on China Situation, April 10 (Defense Attache holds 5th meeting with U.S. crew members)
Taking questions from reporters at the start of an Oval Office meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan April 10, President Bush was asked about the 24 U.S. Navy crew members still on China's Hainan Island nine days after their reconnaissance plane made an emergency landing there.
"Diplomacy sometimes takes a little longer than people would like," said Bush. "I urge the Chinese to bring resolution to this issue. It's time for our people to come home.
"I am making it clear to the Chinese that it's in their nation's interests to end this situation as quickly as possible," the President said. "As all members of my administration have been saying, the longer this goes on, the more likely it is that it could -- could -- jeopardize relations, and we certainly don't want that to happen."
The President told reporters that he had talked the morning of April 10 with Brigadier General Neal Sealock, the U.S. defense attaché in Beijing, following Sealock's fifth meeting earlier in the day with the 24 crew members on Hainan Island.
"He reported that spirits are high, that the troops are patient," said Bush.
"He informed us that there is an exchange of e-mails between our troops and their families, which is, I found to be an important piece of news, that the families will be able to talk to each other," the President said.
Asked about the offer by U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson to go to China to help get the Americans released, Bush sidestepped the question by saying that "there's a lot of people that are anxious for this situation to end. I appreciate the goodwill of a lot of Americans that are concerned about our folks in Hainan Island. This administration is doing everything we can to end the stalemate in an efficient way. We're making the right decisions to bring the solution to an end."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that General Sealock's fifth visit with the U.S. crew members lasted about 40 minutes. "The General told the President in his words that the crew was in superb condition," Fleischer said.
Fleischer said progress has been made in the diplomatic discussions between the U.S. and China "but the sensitivities, the necessities of diplomacy sometimes mean that to be the most productive, the less has to be said. And I think most people understand that, and that is the situation we find ourselves in."
He added that "it is in the hands of the Chinese to resolve this matter in accordance with the diplomatic procedures we have put in place."
The United States does not have the power unilaterally to bring the U.S. crew members home, Fleischer said. "They have to be released, and the Chinese are the ones who can do that."
Regarding Reverend Jesse Jackson's offer to help the U.S. government, Fleischer said Secretary of State Powell spoke with Jackson about it the morning of April 10. Without reporting what they said, Fleischer noted that "many people in the private sector" have contacted the government to offer their services, and our response to all of them has been the same, that the administration is very appreciative of their offers, and we are going to continue to handle this matter through diplomatic communications."
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)