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.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: It's been just over two hours now since the Chinese government announced it would release the 24 crew members from that U.S. spy plane. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the decision was made to release the crew after the United States said sorry.
CNN brought you that news conference live via videophone.
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CHEN CHIE, CHINESE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL: The U.S. has expressed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in its appreciation to the Chinese side for all this. The Chinese side understands the American people and the families of the crew are eagerly looking forward to an early return of the crew and a reunion with them. As the U.S. government has already said "very sorry" to the Chinese people, the Chinese government has other humanitarian considerations. Decided to allow the crew members to leave China after completing the necessary procedures.
FRAZIER: Those necessary procedures, the details all of which are being worked out now between the United States and Chinese officials.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Told you about this at the top of newscast, but want to reiterate again what the specific plans are for the crew's release, still being worked out right now.
But the plans, though, are already in place to get the 24 men and women back to the U.S. A plane is standing by on Guam, preparing to fly to Hainan Island to pick up the crew. It would then be flown from Hainan Island back to Guam, and from Guam to Hawaii, where they should be staying a number of days before they go back to Whidbey Island, where they would be reunited with their families.
So we want to check in on Guam, where they are standing by for that plane to fly to Hainan Island, and our Marina Kamimura is there now.
MARINA KAMIMURA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there.
Well, there is a commercial plane chartered by the U.S. on standby at the Guam International Airport. It had been on standby at the airport for the past couple of days. It's being prepared to leave the airport, we're told, likely in around three hours' time to make that trip over to Hainan.
We believe the trip will reach Hainan in about 4 hours' time, and then will be turning around once it has those crew members onboard and flying back here to Guam. Likely back to Andersen Air Force Base, actually, rather than Guam International Airport. Of course, Guam, being the home to this very strategic air base for the U.S. here in the Pacific.
We expect, then, the crew members will be transferred to a military plane for that journey over to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Marina Kamimura on Guam. Thank you very much. More from you a bit later.
All right. Now we want to check in with Stephen.
FRAZIER: Daryn, we're going to continue to itinerary for the members, presuming that their release will come in just a few hours, as Marina Kamimura hinted there. Their next stop after Guam, of course, would be Honolulu, Hickam Fields, she just referenced.
Let's talk now to Martin Savidge, who's on the phone from Honolulu to get a little more sense of the plans for the crew's return to there -- Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, to you, Stephen.
It's very early in the morning here. Honolulu time just after 3:00 in the morning. But the Navy officials would say it is never too early to start planning the homecoming for the 24 crew members.
They have at this hour brought in extra people on the military installations to begin planning. They will tell you publicly that Hickam Air Force Base is just one of several possible locations where these crew members could first set foot back on U.S. soil, but privately, it is looked upon as the primary location. It is obviously on the way home for these crew members. It is also headquarters to the Pacific command, which is the overarching authority that oversees these crews and the EP-3s.
This is what they're working on right now. It's basically four broad steps: No. 1, get the crew back on U.S. soil.
Two, debriefing the crew. That is a process that, as you've already heard, could take several days. So far, there has not been a thorough debrief of the crew to find out exactly what happened, and exactly what they were able to destroy as the aircraft was making its emergency landing.
No. 3, there would be the standard medical checks that -- we know that the crew has been pretty much looked after by the Chinese. However, it would be routine that they would go through those medical checkups.
And then four, get them back with their families. Well, you can rank No. 1 and No. 4 together. That is a high priority for everyone involved.
This is also likely to be some sort of arrival ceremony, a formal greeting, and it's anticipated that there will be members of the civilian leadership from Washington, D.C. to take part in all of that. So, those are the planning instances that are being worked on at this hour. No specific time frame being given at this point -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: Question before we let you go. It's interesting that the leg from Guam to you will be on a military aircraft, but the plane that actually goes to Hainan Island will be a commercial airliner chartered by the United States. Is that because -- to accommodate the sensitivity the Chinese may be feeling about yet another U.S. plane, military plane, coming into their space?
SAVIDGE: Exactly right. There would be no desire to have another military airplane land on that particular island. We know very well the sensitivities over the past two weeks as to what that would be like. So the commercial airliner is the obvious choice.
But then there is the sense of decorum from the United States once it arrives in Guam to transport them on a U.S. military aircraft, and for them to arrive in the United States on that same sort of transport. So it is decorum involved here, and sensitivity at the same time.
FRAZIER: From Honolulu at the start of a very long day, possibly, our Martin Savidge. Martin, thank you.
KAGAN: And while we wait for more details about the release of the crew members, family members, of course, are also waiting. This morning they were expressing joy, relief, and some skepticism about news that their loved ones will be coming home soon.
Yellow ribbons have been tied to trees at the crews' home base on Whidbey Island, Washington. The community has prayed and rallied support for the detainees and their family. For reaction to this morning's news of the expected release, we turn to our producer, Michael Heard. He is joining us by phone from Whidbey Island.
Michael, good morning.
MICHAEL HEARD, CNN PRODUCER: Good morning, Daryn.
It's just after 6:00 a.m. in the morning here on Whidbey Island, and residents are just waking up to the news. Fourteen out of 24 families of the crew members live here on the island, and this is extremely welcome new. A spokeswomen for the families here recently said this has been a roller coaster ride and that they wanted this to end.
Up until this point, the families have been very quiet so they wouldn't disturb the sensitive negotiations for the release of their loved ones. But I anticipate after hearing the good news, many of the families may want to start talking. And we'll be standing by awaiting that.
Earlier this morning, Barbara DiStefano, sister of Airman Kenneth Richter, expressed her thoughts.
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BARBARA DISTEFANO, SISTER OF DETAINED CREWMAN: When I see him I'm going to hug him and then yell at him for putting us all through this.
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HEARD: Again, we'll be standing by as we wait for any reaction, either from family members or an official statement from the Naval air station here -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Very heartfelt words from a sister there, from a sister to her brother. Michael, before we let you go here, any word -- and I do realize it's early, it's only about 6:25 in the morning there, but any word on exactly when these family members would expect the crew members to arrive for this reunion on Whidbey Island? I would imagine it's still some days away.
HEARD: Right now there's no official word. The Navy has began making preparations. They're just getting the news as well, and we're standing by waiting for an official statement.
KAGAN: Michael Heard on Whidbey Island. Thank you.
FRAZIER: And ahead on CNN LIVE THIS MORNING: the detention for 24 men and women held in China. We'll look at what they've been through exactly.
KAGAN: Also, intense negotiations preceded this breakthrough. We'll go live to the State Department for an update on that.
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