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Prueher Thanks Bush Cabinet, China Got Less Than It Demanded

Aired April 11, 2001 - 08:51   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: Welcome back to CNN LIVE AT DAYBREAK, where we've been having breaking news all morning with word of the American crew being released from Chinese detention.

In the meantime, the first words that we heard out of Chinese officials came this morning out of Hainan, where a foreign affairs officer from Hainan specifically said that the United States expressed regret over the collision of its plane with a Chinese fighter jet and acknowledging that it violated China's sovereignty.

Well, let's take a look at this language -- what it means. Did China get the concession it needed in this case?

We turn to CNN's senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy, who is -- oh, I'm sorry, Mike. I'm going to have you stand by. We've got some breaking news out of Beijing. We're going to go to CNN's bureau chief there, Rebecca MacKinnon.

Rebecca?

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Colleen (sic), I am standing outside the U.S. embassy right now. Ambassador Joseph Prueher is just walking out. He will speak. Let's listen to what he has to say..

JOSEPH PRUEHER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Good evening, and thank you all for coming out here tonight. And we're pretty happy with the state of affairs.

By now, you've heard President Bush announce that the U.S. and China have come to a mutual understanding regarding the accidental collision, and the steps to resolve that, between the U.S. EP-3 and the Chinese F-8 over the South China Sea that occurred on the 1st of April.

That understanding was conveyed to the Chinese government today, 11 April, in the form of a letter to Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. The letter was a product of intense diplomatic efforts by both our Chinese counterparts and by us. In return, Foreign Minister Tang gave me his assurances that the U.S. air crew would be able to depart China promptly.

The next phase of the effort to resolve this incident is the repatriation of the air crew. I know that you're eager for details on that, and concerning their departure, and I assure you that we're working very hard on it, but now is not the time for me to talk about that.

We're obviously delighted that the air crew is going to be going home. The people of America should be very proud of this air crew and the way they handled a very complex and difficult sudden in-flight emergency to safely land the airplane, as well as how they comported themselves while they were here -- being held in China.

Again, I would like to add my expression of sorrow, and that of the president and the secretary of state, over the loss of the pilot Wang Wei, who is a husband, a father and also a fellow aviator.

President Bush and Secretary Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and other key members of the president's national security team were absolutely pivotable -- pivotal in bringing about this resolution. I cannot say enough good about the president's leadership in both the decision-making and also in the coordination -- he was first-rate in all respects.

I also would like to applaud the hard work of our team here in Beijing -- a lot of people worked really hard and a lot of long hours on this -- as well as that of our defense attache, General Neal Sealock, whom you've seen a lot of down in Hainan, who did a great job with his team there.

From my perspective, Secretary Powell's letter to Qian Qichen, laying out a road map leading to resolution of this issue, was probably a key turning point.

We'll have more to say on this tomorrow, and in the days to come, on the resolution of this issue. I thank you very much for covering this story and for your perseverance.

Thanks a lot, and hopefully we'll have a chance to take questions at another time. Good night.

LIN: All right, the latest remarks from the U.S. Ambassador Joseph Prueher, being very careful in the language that he is using in this statement, being very specific to say that the United States expressed its regret over the accidental collision between the Navy plane and the Chinese fighter jet and that that understanding was specifically conveyed to the Chinese.

In return, he got assurances that the U.S. Navy crew would, in fact, be able to leave China promptly. He did not name a specific date or time. He said, up next, that they were working very hard on those details and that America should be very proud of the crew.

And he specifically said that that letter that Secretary of State Colin Powell sent to his Chinese counterpart in terms of a plan to try to prevent something like this from happening again, how to resolve this, was very key in these negotiations.

Let's go to CNN's Asia correspondent, right now, Mike Chinoy. Mike, sorry for the earlier interruption. As you hear the language being used, both by the United States and by the Chinese here, expressing sorrow and regret, what do you interpret in terms of what really cracked this case?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN SENIOR ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Chinese began by making demands last week that the United States apologize for causing the collision, admit that it was the United States' fault that this whole thing happened, and demanding that the United States not only say that it was sorry and that it was responsible, but that it stop the surveillance flights off the Chinese coast.

And the Chinese stuck publicly to that position right on through, in one statement after another. Indeed, Ambassador Prueher mentioned Secretary of State Powell's letter to Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen as a kind of turning point. But a couple of days ago, the Chinese news agency publicized Qian's response to that letter, in which he said that what the United States had offered was not sufficient and that the Chinese people were very dissatisfied.

In the end, however, China got far less than it demanded. It got expressions of sorrow and regret about the fact of the collision and about the loss of the pilot. But it got nothing that acknowledged the United States was in any way at fault -- Carol.

LIN: Want to note to our audience here that you're watching live pictures of President Bush departing for actually some domestic business. He's going to be talking about education. A few minutes ago, though, he expressed, once again, his regret over this incident and the sensitive nature of the relationship between the U.S. and China.

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