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Senator Lugar Discusses Possible Sanctions Against China

Aired April 5, 2001 - 16:37   ET


STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: All right we are going to take you now to what is happening right now. This is Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana who is speaking from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, discussing the U.S.-China standoff. Let's listen in.


SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: ... although there is some rough coincidence. Finally there is a perception on the part of many persons in China that China has not had the respect throughout the last century or even into the first two years of this one that it should have had, that the life of the pilot of the F-8 deserves respect and that had not come through. I think it's important that the statements made by our secretary of state and our president today, indicating, in the case of the words of the president that our prayers were with the pilot if he still is alive and simply missing and, in any event, with his family.

And we have indicated that our reverence for life coincides with that of Chinese people. The problem, finally, is one of time. For the moment, it is apparent that the Chinese government has discouraged protests and citizen involvements, and has attempted to contain anger which is apparent from interviews that some of American press people have conducted.

There is a growing anger in the United States asking why the president, the secretary of state, our military do not take the necessary steps, simply, to free our people, and to get the plane back. Now, for the moment, the president and the Chinese leadership have maintained a negotiating posture. And my prediction is that will continue and it is extensive, and the numbers of channels are very substantial. But the need for early resolution is apparent.

Both in the Chinese press and in our press, a fairly long list of consequences is already being developed and I shall not try to aid that process. But it's apparent that the ramifications of failure to resolve this quickly could be a very severe damage of the relationship between China and the United States.

And most apparent will be battles that are here in the capitol and fairly soon. We will have a two-week recess, but then it is apparent we will discuss potential assistance to Taiwan. We will discuss whatever happened to Chinese membership in the WTO and whether a most-favored nation debate should occur again. There will be discussion of the Olympics of 2008 and the list goes on -- various ways in which our lives as two nations, two great powers intersect.

As a result, my hope is that two great powers will realize that they do have great responsibilities; that the situation can be resolved fairly rapidly by an illumination of the facts, by clarity as to precisely what happened. And, finally, the release of our people, and moment as we were doing prior to this event toward understanding of the Chinese positions, but whether they are in trade or in military circumstances.

Let me cease-fire at that point and respond to your questions -- yes.

QUESTION: Senator Lugar, could you tell us what your knowledge is of the reputation of the Chinese pilot; also, their general tactics when shadowing U.S. reconnaissance flights?

LUGAR: My view on this is that the numbers of sorties by F-8s in regard to our reconnaissance aircraft have been increasing in recent weeks. It would appear to our pilots that some of the those pilots on the Chinese side have been the same -- that is, they've been able to identify the pilots. Why? Because according to eyewitness accounts, the pilots on the Chinese side and our pilots have come that close -- dangerously close.

So, as a result, our pilots who are flying a fairly slow-moving reconnaissance aircraft on a well-defined path have had considerable anxiety about the potential for collision before. On this occasion, for whatever reason -- and this could be a part of investigation -- the Chinese aircraft apparently ran into our aircraft. First evidence says probably from the bottom of the aircraft.

But in any event, severely damaged that aircraft, making it inoperable immediately. Our aircraft miraculously survived because it's a very large aircraft in comparison. But that's the nature, I think, of what we know.

QUESTION: This pilot of whom you speak -- the F-8 pilot -- was he one of the ones that you say the pilots could recognize, and what was his history in particular?

LUGAR: Let me characterize his history as being one who was obviously interested in the assignments to the point of taking pretty daring maneuvers, and that had been noticed by our pilots. I really don't want to characterize the situation further, but I think that may give a flavor, at least, of their feelings about this.

Now, on this particular instance, we have not had a chance to interview, obviously, the crew; so we have, at least, through various means identified the pilot -- his name, his picture has been identified in the world press.

QUESTION: The pilot was known for -- this was a known factor among our personnel -- that this was and aggressive pilot...


QUESTION: And he was in that...

LUGAR: He was not unique -- and I don't mean to single out this individual, but he was a pilot who was known for aggressive tactics.

QUESTION: Senator, you alluded to divisions between the Chinese military and civilians. Are you suggesting that the people with whom the United States is negotiating right now might not be able to deliver anything -- might not be able to deliver anything, might not be able to have the final say as to whether these men are released?

LUGAR: No, I'm not going to say that. Many have speculated that with Premiere Jiang Zemin leaving the country for what appears to be a two-week trip -- a series of state visit outside the country -- that the civilian leadership, at least in the former of the premiere, is absent. And therefore, either that somebody else is going to handle the situation or that the course is already settled.

But this is a very serious relationship. From the Chinese standpoint, I cannot imagine at this point a diplomatic and political relationship that is more important. So, logically, one believes with a great power there are persons who can make decisions. And certainly, our diplomats are attempting to find those persons and ask them to make those decisions.

QUESTION: Senator, in the event this is not resolved quickly, there's been some speculation that Congress could overturn the vote last year to grant permanent normal trade relations. Do you think that's conceivable, or do you think that the commercial and trade forces in this country would do everything they could to prevent that from happening?

LUGAR: Well, there are two speculative elements there, first of all. First of all, that such a vote would occur -- such a debate would occur; and secondly, how -- what the outcome of the debate would be.

My -- I would just say simply that it's a contingency. Clearly, the fact that the WTO has not yet accepted the Chinese into membership and it apparently will not do so for several weeks, maybe for several months -- the assumptions the Congress made last year, and the PDNR situation was essentially that China would be a member, that we would not have annual debates on the subject because China would be a member and we had endorsed that membership, but that hasn't worked out.

So in a parliamentary way, members could decide that we ought to have the debate again. Now, I would just add -- and this is purely my own estimate and no more than that, that...

FRAZIER: We are listening now to Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee making a little bit of noise now about what American lawmakers might do in response to the standoff between the United States and China. He's saying that Americans would be reconsidering whether Chinese should be accepted into the World Trade Organization, something it has wanted for quite a long time; whether we should go ahead with additional assistance to Taiwan; and whether we should discuss the Olympics, something China has made a bid for, hoping to host the 2008 summer games -- Senator Richard Lugar in Washington.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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