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How Long Is Too Long When It Comes to Bringing 24 Americans Home From China?

Aired April 10, 2001 - 21:00   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Diplomacy sometimes takes a little longer than people would like.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, how long is too long when it comes to bringing 24 Americans home from China? Joining us in Dallas, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, member of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill; and in Washington, former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, and with him, former U.S. ambassador to China, James Sasser; also in Washington, Ann Compton of ABC News, and Hugh Sidey, contributing editor for "Time" magazine and author of its presidency column. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We've got quite a panel. They're with us for the hour. Later, we'll include phone calls. Let's start with Sandy Berger. Samuel Berger was the former national security adviser for President Clinton, and is now chairman international advisory firm Stonebridge International.

First, Sandy, do you miss the action? Do you wish you were there tonight?


KING: Really, so you don't say, boy, I wish -- I'd like to know what's going on?

BERGER: No, I think I probably slept better last night than Condi Rice did, so I'm fine.

KING: What's your read so far?

BERGER: Well, I think we're -- my sense is that we're heading towards the end of this. Negotiating with the Chinese, as Ambassador Sasser knows so well, is a frustrating and maddening enterprise. It's not for the faint-hearted. You measure progress inch by inch, not by leaps and bounds.

But I think today, we saw some signs that the Chinese government is beginning to prepare its people for an end to this. The Chinese press today reported that they are thinking of calling off the search for the pilot. You saw greater featuring of the statements of Secretary Powell and National Security Adviser Rice.

Apparently, President Jiang today, in South America, said something that was a bit conciliatory. That all sounds to me like a government which has been in sense trapped in this box, trying to prepare its people for a resolution.

KING: Ambassador James Sasser, who served in China from January of '96 through July of '99, do you agree with what Sandy said?

JAMES SASSER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: I think Sandy Berger is on track here. I think we can see the Chinese government starting to wind down. It may take a few days or it could even happen tomorrow. But I think we're now seeing at least the beginning of the end. So, I'm cautiously optimistic.

KING: Based on what we've heard, Hugh Sidey, from our two illustrious guests, does this mean victory for the United States administration?

HUGH SIDEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: No, I think that's unfortunate, to say it's victory for anybody or a defeat for anybody. This is about the only thing you can do under these circumstances. Larry, the coin of the realm today is information. People survey each other, militarily, economic, commercially, and sometimes we cross the lines, and this was one of those cases. Kind of clumsy, but quite honestly, I don't think it amounts to that much.

KING: What part, Ann Compton, in all of this do you think 24- hour news plays?

ANN COMPTON, ABC NEWS: Well, probably less here than it did in things like the Gulf War, where there was actual military movement moment by moment. In fact, in this, if anything, the Bush administration tried to keep it so low-key. Day after day, the stories that we've gotten from the president, the single phrase.

Like today, his line was that we are at a stalemate, echoed by the State Department, echoed by the Defense Department and other members of the administration, that he's tried to keep it very low- key, keeping it from getting inflamed.

So, I think the day-to-day news coverage, the hour-to-hour news coverage and the fact that the -- not the hostages, but the crew themselves being held as they are, were not in a position of being hostages, their lives in danger. Today, we get word that they're doing crossword puzzles and exercising and sending e-mails home. So, the kind of pressure and the panic and the inflamed situation that could be just doesn't exist.

KING: Sandy, therefore, has the administration handled this well?

BERGER: Well, I think in the beginning things got ramped up a little -- perhaps a little excessively on both sides, and perhaps hardened positions early, but I think after that initial phase, I think the administration has settled into a pattern of trying not to stoke up domestic sentiment, trying to both on the one hand -- essentially, they have two negotiations going on: one with the Chinese, and the other with American people.

With the Chinese they have to be firm. They have to seek a principled outcome. But they have be creative with the American people, they have to be reassuring to the extent that's justifiable in order to avoid an emotional situation which would really put pressure on us, and I think after some initial perhaps excessive rhetoric, I think they have done this right.

KING: Ambassador Sasser, what do you make of Jesse Jackson's offer to go? In the past, his success record is tremendous in things like this.

SASSER: Well, he has been successful in times past, and I suspect that if the Reverend Jackson went to Beijing, he'd probably would be well received, at least by the Chinese media. My understanding is that Reverend Jackson has expressed his views that we ought to apologize. So, that would be well received, I think, in Beijing at this particular time.

But, I'm hopeful we one work our way out of this just using the professional diplomats and others who handle these things on a day-to- day basis as their occupation.

KING: Hugh, in the scheme of things, and you're the veteran of all of this, is this a blip or is this a major incident?

SIDEY: Yes, that is blip. The problem is -- the big crisis today, Larry, is in the media. We don't have much else to deal with at this moment.

KING: You mean we have created it?

SIDEY: A little bit, you bet. There are two views of superpowers. I think one is -- I have heard some, actually on CNN, I guess Pat Buchanan and others that want to crush everybody and stamp through the world. I think a superpower also should be able to take irritations and flea bites and go on, and that's a sign of greatness in my life, and I think in our time, we have handled it pretty well and let's be calm about it. Patience, patience, patience. The ambassador, I'm sure, can tell me more, but over there, I think those people are still trying to sort it out, and they're not expert in that.

KING: And Ann, is Hugh right? Is the enemy us?

COMPTON: I'm not sure really agree with that. If anything, I think the coverage, although it has been extended, has been pretty tame on this. And add to that the fact that Congress is in recess this week and next, so you don't have this great cauldron of anti- China talk coming out of the Hill, which is usually kind of a magnet for reporters. But the administration, by trying to keep it low-key, and the fact that other things -- there other big stories this week: the entire Bush budget coming out, there are plenty other things going on. But whenever you have 24 American lives sitting, unable to get off foreign soil, I think that's a pretty major story, Larry.

KING: We'll take a break, be right back with our panel. Don Hewitt, the executive producer of "60 Minutes" is our guest tomorrow night. We'll be taking your calls as well. Don't go away.


BUSH: I talked to General Sealock again. He met with our folks on Hainan Island. He reported that spirits are high, that the troops are patient. He informed us that there is an exchange of e-mails, between our troops and their families, which I found to be an important piece of news.



KING: Ambassador Sasser, we asked Sandy Berger, let's ask you. How is the administration doing?

SASSER: Well, I think the problem the administration had to begin with is they -- the Chinese look at this administration with a jaundiced eye, First, during the campaign, the administration said we were going to move away from trying to construct a strategic partnership, as a Clinton administration had tried to do, and said we were going to view China as a strategic competitor.

And then, of course, they went ahead with their view that we were paying too much attention to China, and should be paying more attention to our other allies in the east, particularly, Japan. So they started out, I think, behind the curve, Larry, and then, of course, after President Bush made his second statement, which was a little strong, I think, for Chinese ears, that is when we heard President Jiang make the statement that they wanted an apology.

I think the administration would have been better advised to leave the dialogue at the secretary of state and foreign ministry level and perhaps to leave the president out of it.

KING: Your thought would have been that President Bush should have said nothing at that point?

SASSER: I think the president could have issued a statement, couched perhaps in more conciliatory terms, and let the secretary of state do the talking. I think Secretary of State Powell has done really an outstanding job through this.

KING: Sandy Berger, why do you think that the Chinese are holding the troops, holding the 24 people? They have got the plane, they can make the statements -- what's the point? BERGER: Well, I think there is a large component of internal politics here, in terms of Chinese politics. The Chinese military has this plane that gives them, the facts on the ground, so to speak. It gives them leverage, against the civilian authorities.

And in many ways, President Jiang is in a lose-lose situation at this point, either he holds on to these people longer and does real damage to the relationship of the United States and the West, which I don't think he wants to do. Or he releases them, and he would be criticized by more nationalistic elements in China, young people in the military, and so they you know, their decision-making process is a bit slower and more cumbersome than ours, and I think he is trying to find enough of a consensus that he gets out of this without appearing to cave in.

KING: Ann, is there an endgame here to where the United States has to, in your opinion, do something?

COMPTON: Oh, I think so. When U.S. public opinion reaches that point, and when the actual freezeout, the administration had very little success in the last, we are told, maybe 36 hours of getting any response out of the Chinese at all. How long do you sit on it? It's the kind of thing I'm not sure you can define in advance, but at some point, the president is going to say, well enough is enough.

He said that in so many words today and yesterday, in a fairly consistent message. This is kind of like water torture right now. They've gotten very, very little to show since the end of last week when they were so euphoric, thinking it was almost over.

KING: What about public opinion, Hugh Sidey? The poll today says 54 percent consider the crew members hostages, 68 percent said it is not our fault, 54 percent say we should not apologize, over 30 percent say we should. What do you gather is the public mood on this?

SIDEY: I don't think the polls matter that much, Larry. Once again, I think if this is resolved in a given time. But I think I would give it far more time, weeks maybe even months.

KING: Really?

SIDEY: Yes, even -- in my 40 years around this town, there has always been a hostage in some way. Remember, when Kennedy came in, the RB 47 flyers -- they had been six months held by the Soviets, something like that, and of course, Gary Powers going back to the U2 we have had these problems, Pueblo.

We have had huge problems with hostages and that, this to me seems like most benign. I'm not suggesting that indeed that it isn't important. It is. But, let's be patient about this. You are dealing with a country that, thousands of years of isolation. I went to China in Nixon in 1972 and it was -- we were entering a new world. That's less than 30 years ago. You can't develop an internal structure to deal with this sort of thing in that time. And I think we see the confusion over there, let's give it some time.

KING: We'll be back with more of our panel and your phone calls, as well, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


REAR ADMIRAL CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Hostages, to me, says a couple of things that we don't see. You don't have access to hostages. They are kept from you. And in the case of our aircrew, we have had several meetings -- five now -- meetings with the aircrew over a period of days. We think that is great. We hope that will continue, and even be more often.



KING: Joining our panel now from Dallas is Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas. She holds a major leadership position as vice chairman of the Republican Conference, and two, by the way, crew members are from her state. She's been able to hear the first portions of this program. Anything you have heard that you would disagree with?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Larry, actually, I have talked to both of the mothers of the young men who are over there, and they are in very good spirits. They are of course very concerned, but I think they have the right attitude, and they are doing -- they are being team players.

KING: How about the way the administration is handled it to this point?

HUTCHISON: They are very pleased. They think that the administration is doing everything it can, they are satisfied that they are getting the information that they need. They feel very good that they have had the communications from their loved ones, and that that has also gone the other way, they are giving sports news and things like that, to try to keep the morale up, and they feel that this is the administration's highest priority, and they are right.

KING: What do you think?

HUTCHISON: I think the administration is doing everything that can be done. I just think that we have to be somewhat patient. This is not the kind of thing that is going to happen with a new event every five minutes. Or every 30 minutes. It is going to be behind the scenes. I think we need to give it time.

I do think that we are going to solve this, and I think the Chinese are beginning to realize that the world is watching them, that there is a lot at stake, that people are looking at their reactions, and I think that behind the scenes efforts are going to pay off, and we just all need to be patient, although it is hard.

KING: By the way, folks on the panel, you can jump in at any time with something said. Ambassador Sasser, how much of this is cultural? Little nuances of defining apology? SASSER: Well, I think a lot of it is cultural. What we are dealing with here are -- the Chinese, I think, are hypersensitive to any real or imagined sleight. For example, you keep hearing them talk about their dignity and their sovereignty.

And, of course, this goes back to what the Chinese call their century of humiliation, when China was divided up, to a large extent between the Western industrialized powers and, of course, Japan's invasion of China in the 20th century, resulting in what they call the Great Japanese War.

So they are sensitive, and they are sensitive to the fact that an American aircraft is flying off their coast, surveilling them. We have been doing it now, I guess, for about 40 years. And the Chinese military has lost some face here. They lost an aircraft, they lost a pilot. And they had an American aircraft land on one of their airfields without permission. So they feel affronted, so it takes them a while to get over this.

KING: Sandy Berger, positions reversed, wouldn't the United States feel affronted?

BERGER: Yeah, but I'm sure we would have released the pilots. I also believe that there would have been a certain amount of hue and cry about China spying on the United States. We have had some experience with that. But I don't think we would have -- I don't think we would have held the pilots, or held the crew members beyond an initial briefing.

Let me add just one thing to what Jim Sasser said. I think that the anger that you see in the Chinese people, I think it's partly real, I think it's partly generated by the government. But of course the facts that they know are not necessarily the same facts that we know. The line that they have -- I'm sure that the Chinese military and the Chinese pilot did not call up the Foreign Ministry and said, we screwed up there in skies off the coast, and rammed into a plane.

I'm sure that the version of reality that has been conveyed through the Chinese system, and certainly to Chinese people, is one is that heavily biased toward the Chinese. So I think there is some genuine anger on the part of the Chinese. And to some degree, it's exploited by the government.


SASSER: And one thing we've got to remember, it is less than two years ago that we bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. So...

KING: You remember that well.

SASSER: I remember it very well, and I suspect Sandy Berger does, too. And that is still festering just under the surface with a lot of Chinese, because they believe -- the man on the street believes that was not an accident. And I think many of the leadership still believes that was not an accident, although they don't think it was ordered by this former president or the secretary of Defense, but they think somebody in the bowels of the intelligence community of the United States, might have ordered it.

KING: We'll take a break, by the way -- I'm sorry, were you going to say something?

SIDEY: Well, I'm just saying the ambassador raised a good point about the 40 years we have been in this matter of surveillance. I would like to see a review. I'd like to see the military take a look at what they are doing offshore. You know, Larry, and we all know around here that the military gets a pattern that makes sense at one time, and frequently they don't watch until they run into a brick wall. And then, suddenly they say, well, maybe we shouldn't have been there then, or we should have changed it a little bit.

We saw that -- the U2 flight was a classic example. Things were -- things were in danger then, and we have seen that elsewhere, so let's take a look at our own system here.

KING: We will take a break. And when we come back, we're going to talk to the parents of Rodney Young, United States Navy, and there -- one of the people that spoke with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, he is from Texas. We'll get their viewpoint.

We'll be taking your phone calls. Our panel is with us all the way, don't go away. We'll be right back.


KING: Joining us on the phone now from Katy, Texas, that's a suburb of Houston, is Tilda Young, the mother of Rodney Young. He is a cryptologic technician third class, in fact, he is one of the boys pictured in the picture that has been released by the government, and by our visitors over there. Tilda, what do you know about the condition of Rodney?

TILDA YOUNG, MOTHER OF RODNEY YOUNG: Well, so far, we hear that they are in very good spirits, and knowing Rodney, I know he is in good spirits, because he is a happy young man. So...

KING: Which one is he? Do you see the picture there on the screen, which one is Rodney?

YOUNG: That's him, the one on the right.

KING: Oh, there he is, circled.

YOUNG: That's him. That is Rodney.

KING: And you know he is in good shape?

YOUNG: Yes. We -- Rodney is a spirited young man, so we know that he is doing a great job over there, and he's being very patient. That is what we feel, so he is going to handle the situation. Yes, he is.

KING: Tilda, who talks to you? Who calls you from the government? YOUNG: The military calls us.

KING: The Navy itself?

YOUNG: Yes, the Navy itself. Yes, they do.

KING: How often?

YOUNG: They -- gosh, I would say, anywhere from five to six times a day.

KING: Really?

YOUNG: Yes, they do. They will call and just ask how you are doing. They have been wonderful.

KING: Everyone is saying be patient. Are you?

YOUNG: Yes, I am. My husband and I, we are very patient. Because we understand that it takes a lot of patience, that is what we are doing.

KING: Do you feel the government should apologize?

YOUNG: Well, now on that situation, I can't say what the government should do. They know what they have to do. I'm not in their position. If it was Rodney, if he had to tell me what to do, Rodney would probably say no.

KING: Do you regard Rodney as a hostage?

YOUNG: Oh, no. I don't. I don't. I really don't. I think that he is in a situation beyond his control, but I just don't see him as that. I really don't.

KING: Is he planning to be lifetime Navy?

YOUNG: Rodney is a 100 percent Navy man. If you asked him, that is what he says. So, he just came upon re-enlistment, he's just, you know, doing his re-enlistment thing, and he plans to make career of it. Yes he does. He loves his job.

KING: Cryptologic -- what's this, breaking codes, right?

YOUNG: I can't tell you. I really don't know.

KING: Tilda, you sound awfully happy for a mother with a son not in touch with you. I don't know -- how you are handling this so well?

YOUNG: Well, it takes, what you said, patience. It takes a lot of patience and faith. And we know that we just feel that he is going to be fine and he is coming home. That is what we...

KING: Senator Hutchison, did you talk to Tilda?

HUTCHISON: Can you hear me? KING: Senator Hutchison, did you talk to Tilda?

HUTCHISON: Yes, I did. I did, and I think she has a positive attitude, and she had it when I talked to her earlier, and I'm very proud of her.

KING: Tilda, I thank you very much for joining us. We are all hoping for you.

YOUNG: OK, thank you.

KING: Tilda Young, one of the constituents of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. We are going to take a break. When we come back, we will re-introduce the panel, we'll include your phone calls and more on this continuing story.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don Hewitt, executive producers of "60 Minutes" is our special guest tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: We are back. Let's reintroduce our panel: In Dallas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas. In Washington: Samuel Berger, former national security adviser for President Clinton. Also in Washington: James Sasser, United States ambassador to China, from January of '96 through July of '99, also a former senator from Tennessee. Ann Compton, ABC News Washington correspondent, one of the best reporters in the business, and Hugh Sidey, the dean, shall we say, from "TIME" magazine, Washington contributing editor, and author of the "Presidency" column.

Ann, what about someone like Kofi Anon, the thought of bringing him in?

COMPTON: Well, you know, the president hasn't reached out really to anybody outside of the two countries. Again, he's trying not to escalate it. Right now Jiang Zemin is in South America, he is meeting with leaders there, some suggestion that perhaps some of those leaders could bring up the subject with Jiang, but at this point everything the president has said is, he doesn't want it at the head of state level. He doesn't want it as an international crisis. He wants it, just the, actually the American ambassador, I think, in Beijing, and the military leaders there, the foreign ministry to get this thing over with.

KING: Does anyone on the panel think that a third party should come in?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm -- not not in public way.

HUTCHISON: Needs to run this --

KING: Sorry. Senator Hutchison then Sandy. HUTCHISON: I think the president needs to call shots here. And I think it is very important that no one jump out and become an independent contractor. It is very important for the foreign policy of this country to have one voice and it is the president.

KING: Sandy Berger, Kofi Anon -- bad idea?

BERGER: I think it's a bad idea publicly. I suspect the administration has spoken to some of our friends in Asia and elsewhere that have good relations with China and asked them to intervene privately with the Chinese to suggest that this is something that could be very damaging if it is not resolved. But you don't want in this situation, essentially, to have two channels of negotiations so that the Chinese can play one off against the other.

KING: All right, before we take some phone calls we have put together a compilation of the statements made by President Bush, since the beginning of this, right up to now, let's watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first step should be immediate access by our embassy personnel, to our crew members. I'm troubled by the lack of a timely Chinese response to our request for this access.



BUSH: I regret that a Chinese pilot is missing and I regret one of their airplanes is lost. And our prayers go out to the pilot, his family. Our prayers are also with our own servicemen and women, and they need to come home.



BUSH: We are working hard to bring them home through intensive discussions with the Chinese government and we think we are making progress.



BUSH: All of us around this table understand diplomacy takes time. But there is a point, the longer it goes, there is a point at which our relations with China could become damaged.



BUSH: This administration, is doing everything we can to end the stalemate, and in an efficient way. We are making right decisions to bring solution to an end.


KING: That was the statements since it all began, of President Bush. Let's go to some calls. Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, hi, this is to your panel. Why doesn't a Bush administration give the apology so we get our 24 servicemen back safely. Once they're returned, retract the apology then take some kind of action against China?

KING: OK, is that a good idea or -- let's go -- Ambassador Sasser, what do you think of that idea?

SASSER: Well, I don't think we can go down that line. In other words, I think your word is your bond to some extent in personal relations and also in international relations, and if we were to make a bogus apology and then pull it back, I think we'd look ridiculous.

And of course, we wouldn't be believed in the future. It's tough to try to talk about making an apology when you haven't even talked to your own crew. We really don't know what's happened yet. So, I'm hopeful that we can work around here and find a word that in Chinese may translate close to an apology, but in English doesn't mean an apology.

KING: Taking a long time to find a word.


SASSER: It takes a long time to negotiate with the Chinese, Larry.

KING: Normal, Illinois. Go ahead, I'm sorry.


CALLER: ... hostages since they can't leave of their own free will and where are all our allies when we could use their positive support?

KING: OK, he is saying, Sandy Berger, why not call them hostages? If they can't leave of their own free will, they're hostages.

BERGER: Well, let me answer second part, I think I've been disappointed by the absence of support from our allies. I think other than the British, there has not been much public expression that these people should be released.

I think that -- what we call -- the reason not to use the word "hostage," I think, has to do with, essentially, the domestic element here. We have a vision of hostage that derives from the Iranian hostage crisis, hostage -- America held hostage, day 461, people in blindfolds, a very, very searing experience for America. And once we -- there is no -- this not a term of art, these are not legal terms. I think once we make that step, we have ratcheted up pressure on ourselves, and I think one of the things in a situation like this you don't want to do is put yourself in a box.

KING: How is Colin Powell...

HUTCHISON: Larry, can I...

KING: Yes, senator, go ahead.

HUTCHISON: Could I add to what Sandy has said. I think he is absolutely right. But I also think there is a difference here from other hostage situations, such as he dealt with in Serbia, when we had hostages there, and that is that the Chinese are giving us access, and they are allowing these young men and women to communicate with their relatives, and so I think that it isn't right to call them hostages because they are having access, and they say they are in good spirits, and they are having the communications.

KING: We'll right back with more of our panel and more of your phone calls right after this.


KING: We're back. Let's take a call from St. Petersburg, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: When the situation with the Americans being detained in China, why have we heard so little from our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld?

KING: OK. Fairly good question. Hugh Sidey, we have not heard much from Secretary Rumsfeld.

SIDEY: Well, I think that's rather a belligerent way. I mean, Rumsfeld suggests big firepower and all of that, that's threatening. So I think it's probably wise to keep him under cover.

On another point that was a little earlier, Larry, let me say, I think probably the Allies are a little busier than we know at this point. My hunch is, with a little information, there is a lot of back channel stuff, from the White House, from elsewhere, from the Allies, I think there is a lot of that pressure. And I, once again, just say let's keep it low key.

KING: Ambassador Sasser, how is Colin Powell looking?

SASSER: I think Colin Powell has been the star of the administration, so far. I have a hunch we might have been a little further down the line in seeking -- in getting the of this crew if it had been left with Colin Powell, and with Colin Powell's State Department. I think he's got -- I think Colin Powell is well- respected in China, they know him. And, so far, I think his statements have been right on target.

KING: Bethesda, Maryland, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. How are you this evening?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: Quick question. At this point, wouldn't an apology of any form, whether it come from the administration, or an outside mediator such as Reverend Jackson, be seen as a sign of weakness or appeasement?

KING: Senator Hutchison?

HUTCHISON: Absolutely. I think that we are going to be judged in future negotiations by how we handle this one. And an apology that we don't mean is not something that should come from the world's greatest superpower. And secondly, if we did apologize when we didn't think we had done anything wrong, I assure you we would face this again, and again, and again. We must be a country that says what we're going to do, and keeps our word.

KING: Ann, we -- China has some problems here. They want to host the 2008 summer Olympics, they've got President Bush scheduled for a trip, they've got the trade issue, and we could remove most favored nation status. Isn't -- they're in a lose-lose here?

COMPTON: Well, it's a long-term stakes here, Larry. Very long term. The Olympics is a point of great pride, what could the U.S. do? You know, the Olympic committee, China keeps saying, is the one that decides that, but certainly the U.S. could put up an objection, and other countries could fall in line.

The trouble is, what options are open to the administration? A lot of them would hurt the U.S., and some of the forces within China, that are trying to break out the capitalist markets. The people are trying to establish businesses there. How do you get to those who are really keeping a tight fist around these 24 crew members? And the administration is looking for some short-term answers, and there don't seem to be very many right there on the table.

KING: Sandy Berger, if you were you were sitting in that chair, would you recommend maybe more arms sales to Taiwan? Would that be a way to challenge this?

BERGER: No, I think that's an issue that ought to be determined on its own merits. I think the situation across the Taiwan Straits is one of the most dangerous spots in the world, and a place where tensions really could result in conflict. And therefore it seems to me, in deciding what to sell the Taiwanese, we have to make that decision based upon Taiwan's defensive needs and what is going to maximize stability and peace across the straits. And I think it would be unfortunate if we did not make a decision that made sense on the merits based upon this, obviously, on hoping and assuming that this would be resolved before that decision needs to be made.

KING: Hugh Sidey, from example of perception as a strong nation, does the United States look like it's taking -- have to look like it's taking some strong action?

SIDEY: I don't think so. I think...


SIDEY: ... too sophisticated in these days. I think we can get by with something that -- it's mentioned little earlier is important -- I think people overestimate the ability of the Chinese to deal in this world of public imagery, and how you get along. I think they're still primitive.

As I mentioned earlier, I was in China in '72 with Nixon opened it up, and they were just -- they were children about this whole thing of how you present the world. And -- 30 years is not time enough to develop a good PRESS: outfit. It probably needs a bit more generation.

One quick story, Larry, when Nixon was there, he went around a park, and there were little kids playing. They were wonderful. And he went around a corner, and there they were. And there were more kids, and more kids -- turned out they were all the same kids. They were -- they were taken around in a van. We called it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mobile.


SIDEY: And it humiliated the Chinese. And Chou En-lai, the premier, came to Kissinger and said, "That's a world we do not understand, and you have to forgive us for these errors." I think there's a lot of that in internal China now. They have gone too far. And you've got to let them sort it out.

KING: Jim Sasser, you were there, you agree?

SASSER: Well, I think they've come a long way since Hugh Sidey was there in 1972. They are now starting to understand, I think, how are they perceived in the west -- and particularly the young Chinese coming along. After all, about 42,000 of them every year are educated here in the United States, and they're educated in Europe as well. For example, the present Chinese ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Yang, went to the London School of Economics.

Now, these Chinese are relatively young Chinese, in their 30s, and 40s, and 50s. They understand the United States and the west much better. But of course, China is still -- the leaders of China are still much older. President Jiang is 75 or 76 years old. Premier Zhu is in his 70s as well. Now, they have a different view. And they were educated in China, and some of them, even in the old Soviet Union.

BERGER: You know, Larry, there is -- in a sense, there's good news and bad news in what we're seeing played out among the Chinese public. The good news is that the Chinese government monopoly on information is clearly eroding, and people are able to learn what's happening, and are able to exert some influence over the choices their government has.

The bad news is that that popular sentiment in this matter is rather nationalistic. But it does suggest that the days when they could totally control what their people think -- very hard to sustain with telephones and Internet and television, and perhaps even the LARRY KING show.

KING: Perhaps. Definitely.

We'll be right back, and get Senator Hutchison's comment, and Ann Compton, too. Don't go away.


REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: If we were to apologize, we lose nothing politically, diplomatically, militarily, economically. We have nothing to lose, and our soldiers to be gained. Except if our governments cannot take that step, then maybe an ecumenical body of religious leaders in fact can close that gap and save face for both governments, and not take honor from either.


KING: Senator Hutchison, you're on recess. Does Congress play any role in this now?

HUTCHISON: Well, certainly, I think we are talking to the White House and to the Pentagon and the State Department, but I think this is a time for Congress to be quiet. I think that most members of Congress realize that we don't need to be contributing to this. We need to be supportive, we need to be communicating with our constituents who have loved ones in Hainan, but it's not time for us to talk.

But Larry, I did want to mention that I was in China last year, and throughout a number of the small towns, I would agree with what the others were saying. The communications explosion has happened in China. So, I think as we have more communication with the outside world, that we are going to be able to understand the differences in the cultures, and I think that it will be a whole lot easier 10 years from now than it, perhaps, is right now.

KING: So, Hugh Sidey, maybe that 30 years is more than it seems?

SIDEY: Well, it's happened. I don't deny that, but I think we've got a long ways to go, Larry. I think that you can see that tensions within the government, the different factions, the extent we know, and I don't think they have quite arrived in our world yet. But sure, they're on the way.

KING: Well, we're going to take a break and when we come back, we'll ask each of our panel members in our closing moments to make a little prediction as to where they think and when they think this all going to end, and we'll do that right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Senator Hutchison, we have about 30 seconds each, where do you think it's all going?

HUTCHISON: I think we will have our military personnel returned to America. I think it will be in the next week or so, and I think that we are going to have to make a greater effort to understand the Chinese and vice versa. We need some communications lessons because has is not been good for either of our countries.

KING: So there's repairs ahead?

HUTCHISON: There are.

KING: Samuel Berger, where is it going?

BERGER: Well, I say first Larry, by all us urging patience here, I don't think that is suggests that any of are satisfied with where we are, nor should we be satisfied until our people are released. But I think we're heading to that point, and I believe over the next several days, we'll see some decisive progress.

KING: With a joint announcement, maybe?

BERGER: I think with both a joint statement, and some sort of process by which the two sides sit down, and do in the air what we did in 1998 at sea, and that is develop some rules of the road in the sense that decreases the chance of this happening again.

KING: James Sasser, saving face?

SASSER: Larry, I think that -- frankly, I'm surprised this has gone on as long as it has. I think one of the reasons it has is because President Jiang is out of the country in South America, and has with him his chief foreign policy adviser, Vice Premier Qian.

If they were back in China, we might have gotten through this faster. My own view is that this will be resolved in matter of days, I would say, one to five days, and there may be some positive aspects to this. I think number one, in the United States, we have developed grass roots level a greater appreciation of what's really going on in China, and as Sandy Berger has said, perhaps there will be some rules of the road coming out of this, and we won't have a repeat performance.

KING: Ann Compton, what's your blinker say?

COMPTON: It's very, very early, in this administration, less than 100 days. President Bush is not just being measured by the Chinese, but by world leaders. He's going to a big summit a week from now, He is being measured by the American people, and whatever his actions are now, are going to be measurement by which he is judged for at least next four years when he's going to have to deal with these people. In about 48 hours from now, he is going to his ranch in Texas, so I bet the release is probably, just to sound like a skeptical journalist, right in the middle of a holiday weekend.

KING: And Mr. Sidey, your thoughts? Where are we going?

SIDEY: I think sooner rather than later, and I agree with Sandy. I think there is some sort of an apparatus that will come out of here. How about a study commission? That's a wonderful way to paper over things. Six months, and they can a study the accident and assign blame and change the rules a little bit. So, I think yes this will wind down.

KING: Ann, I want to ask one thing before we leave, and we only have a little less than a minute, if Timothy McVeigh said I want Ann Compton to interview me, would you...

COMPTON: Oh, yes, absolutely.

KING: ... if the federal prisons allowed it?

COMPTON: Absolutely, absolutely. But don't ask me whether the execution ought to be broadcast because that is something I just don't think the American people are ready for.

KING: So you would not broadcast it, but you would interview him?

COMPTON: Well, I don't make those decisions at the network, but an interview, absolutely. It would be a fascinating, fascinating view into something that has been so traumatic for this country.

KING: Thank you all very much for an illuminating hour. Broadcast news pioneer and "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt joins me Wednesday night, tomorrow. You can submit questions and comments ahead. Just log on to my Web site: It's easy to do, and we'd love to hear from you. Don Hewitt tomorrow night.

"CNN TONIGHT" is next. If you're wondering about this, it's my tribute to Tucker Carlson. I like him, I thought I'd pay him tribute. Thanks for joining us and good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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