|China Has Sufficient Evidence to Show Responsibility Rests with US (April 19,2001)|
China and the United States will continue their negotiations hoping to seek a settlement to the mid-air collision incident that occurred between a Chinese fighter jet and a US surveillance plane over the South China Sea, according to sources with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
This will be a continuation of the three-hour talks which took place yesterday afternoon between the two countries.
A news release from the ministry said that the two sides had elaborated on their respective positions during Wednesday's negotiations.
Lu Shumin, head of the Chinese delegation, noted during the negotiations that the Chinese side has sufficient evidence to show that responsibility for the incident rested on the US side, the news release said.
The so-called evidence and speeches given by the US side over the past few days do not hold water, Lu was quoted in the news release as saying.
Lu, who is also the director-general of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs of the ministry, stressed that the US side should bear all responsibility, explain themselves to the Chinese people, stop surveillance activities near China's coast and take effective measures to prevent a reoccurrence of such incidents.
Neither the US delegation, headed by US Deputy Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy Support Peter F. Verga, nor US Ambassador to China Joseph Prueher made any comment about the negotiations yesterday when questioned by reporters outside the US Embassy in Beijing.
Wednesday's negotiations were the first between the two countries since the 24 US crew members left Hainan last Thursday. Both countries have called for a "constructive" attitude towards the negotiations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said on Tuesday that the focus of the talks includes the cause of the mid-air collision, a stop to US surveillance flights near China's coast, the prevention of a recurrence of such incidents and other related issues.
However, experts on Sino-US relations in Beijing held that the legitimacy of US surveillance flights over China's Special Economic Zone in the South China Sea will be the issue at the core of the negotiations.
China has repeatedly accused the US military of violating China's airspace to conduct surveillance flights and has said that the US should stop such missions.
It is expected that the US side will bring up the issue of the EP-3 aircraft, requesting the prompt return of the US$80 million plane which has been on China's Hainan Island since its emergency landing on April 1.
Spokeswoman Zhang said at Tuesday's briefing that China has the right to investigate the plane according to international and Chinese laws and said that China will decide how to handle the aircraft based on the results of the investigation.
US Ambassador to China Prueher submitted a letter to Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan last week saying that the United States is very sorry for the loss of Wang Wei's life, the unauthorized entrance into China's airspace and the unauthorized landing on Hainan. The United States has since taken a tough line toward the incident, accusing Chinese pilots of causing the collision.
"The inconsistent attitude of the Bush administration will surely encourage the Chinese Government to take a more cautious approach to US commitment," said Yan Xuetong, executive director of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University. "It will lead to the Chinese Government doubting whether the US Government will carry out agreements reached during the negotiations."
The mid-air collision is the severest conflict arisen between China and the United States since the Bush administration was sworn in last January.
Both countries have expressed concern that the incident should not become a barrier to the development of bilateral ties.
"How the incident is handled will have a stronger impact on Sino-US relations in the long run than in the short run," said Pan Shaozhong, a professor specializing in Sino-US relations at the Foreign Affairs College.
Earlier this week, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stressed that a productive meeting can set the basis for furthering the relationship between the two countries, while in Beijing, spokeswoman Zhang said that the development of bilateral ties needs the joint efforts of both countries and warned that the "irresponsible remarks'' of some US officials are not conducive to the progress of such ties.