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Meeting Begins Between U.S. Officials, Crew Members of Plane Detained by China

Aired April 6, 2001 - 08:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: There's some confusion as to whether this meeting actually took place between U.S. officials in Hainan, China, and the Navy crew that's being detained by the Chinese.

We have got CNN's Beijing bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon on the telephone with us right now.

Rebecca, what happened?

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, it appears that the meeting has not actually taken place, contrary to what the U.S. ambassador was led to believe earlier.

Just a little while ago, a press officer from the U.S. Embassy walked out of the U.S. Embassy and handed out a statement to members of the press standing around. The statement says that the U.S. Embassy representatives in Hainan have not yet been able to meet with American aircrew members for the scheduled 4:00 meeting. This is contrary, the statement said, to the information given earlier to the Embassy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This statement then continues that General Sealock and his delegation are in the same vicinity as the crew members, but have not been allowed to see them. The statement went on to say that Sealock and his diplomats on the scene are still making an effort to meet with the crew members there. They're negotiating to do so, but they have not yet been allowed do so, even though the Foreign Ministry had told the Embassy that the meeting was going on -- Carol.

LIN: So, Rebecca, what do you think the holdup is?

MACKINNON: It's very unclear, Carol, at this point. U.S. diplomats, just a few hours ago, had seemed very relieved that there was movement going on here. So exactly what the hold up is is completely unclear.

I think part of the problem here is we have different parts of the Chinese government at work and perhaps not communicating very well with one another, and perhaps not really feeling that they see eye-to- eye in terms of where their interests are in this situation. You have the Foreign Ministry that really does not want the U.S.-China relationship to deteriorate too much. But these crew members are being held by the military, and the military is well known here to be much more hawkish about China's relationship with the United States. And perhaps something has occurred that has made the officers down in Hainan, on the scene, feel that they cannot go along with whatever the Foreign Ministry may have arranged.

We're going to have to see, though, because at the moment, there is absolutely no concrete information as to what the stumbling block is at this point -- Carol.

LIN: How much do you think this has to do with the president of China being out of the country, then?

MACKINNON: That is not clear. It's not clear whether President Jiang Zemin has been in touch with diplomats over the past several hours. It's not clear whether he was involved in the decision to hold the second meeting in the first place.

Carol, I have just received new information. The meeting has begun. This was just passed on to me. So now the meeting has begun. Whatever the stumbling block was that delayed the meeting for nearly five hours seems to have been gotten over. The latest information, again, is that meeting has begun.

So as you can see, Carol, it's a rocky road that the U.S. diplomats here are trying to ride as they're attempting to move forward and get the crew members out -- Carol.

LIN: Which is why we're glad that we have you watching these events, in Beijing. Thank you very much, Rebecca MacKinnon, for that breaking news.

So the meeting has now officially begun between the 24 Navy crew members and the U.S. officials.

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