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U.S/China Standoff: Crew to Be Released in Next Few Days

Aired April 11, 2001 - 08:17   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: And just in case you're just tuning in now, we've had word out of the White House, as well as China, that the Navy crew of that U.S. spy plane will be released soon, as soon as they can get some paperwork done in China -- but, in the meantime, developments here stateside as to what happens next, and what happens next with that Navy plane.

Let's go to the Pentagon, where CNN's Patty Davis is standing by with more on that -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, as for the crew, a senior Pentagon official confirms that a Continental plane is being readied on the island of Guam to fly onto Hainan Island and pick up that crew of 24 -- no details, though, no timetable on when that plane will leave; when that crew will be allowed to be picked up. The tentative plan, at this point, is to fly that plane, then, into Guam and then take the crew back to Guam, where they will be then transferred to another plane and they will be flown to Hawaii.

Hawaii is where they will be extensively debriefed. You know that U.S. officials haven't had a chance really to talk to that crew yet, to figure out what happened in that midair collision, exactly what happened, and, on the way down, you know, how critical -- how critical was it in terms of landing that plane, and also in terms of what were they able to destroy on sensitive equipment, sensitive information that the Chinese, you know -- what were they able to destroy that the Chinese were denied access to?

Now, the Pentagon saying that the crew is its first order of business -- its primary concern: getting that crew of 24 back. But as for the plane, as you asked, there's still no word from the Pentagon. That is still up in the air, still subject to negotiation. The Pentagon obviously wants that plane back very badly. There are some contingency plans in terms of either flying a repair crew in or packing that plane up and sending it out in boxes.

We'll just have to wait and see, Pentagon officials say, as to what the Chinese agree to -- Carol and Colleen.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Patty Davis, reporting live at the Pentagon.

And just as a quick reminder: In about six minutes, we're waiting to hear from president of the United States, who will be speaking to us live from the White House. We'll carry that live -- Colleen.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Carol, thanks.

This incident has implications for Taiwan, the island off the coast of China. It's had a long and difficult history with China. China considers it kind of a rogue province. Taiwan has got a new leader. He's been in the office there for about a year. He's been a proponent of independence for Taiwan, but he's had to sort of scale back his rhetoric in the past year to try to smooth over relations with Beijing.

Now, Taiwan gets help from the United States in terms of protecting itself. And right now, it wants more. A decision is about to be made on what kind of weaponry to provide for Taiwan in the coming weeks. A decision is to be made by the U.S. Congress.

And we want to talk a little bit more about that. And joining us for that is Ya Wei Lu (ph), who is with the Carter Center right here in Atlanta.

YA WEI LU, CARTER CENTER: Good morning.

MCEDWARDS: Good morning. Thanks for being here, and thanks for being patient as we get to you.

WEI LU: No, I'm excited to watch the whole news.

MCEDWARDS: What is it that Taiwan wants from the United States in terms of weaponry now?

WEI LU: Every year, in spring, Taiwan will try to buy weapons and arms from the United States, as mandated by the Taiwan Relations Act, which was signed back in 1979.

MCEDWARDS: And as soon as this incident developed, some U.S. Congress members said: Look, you know, this dustup with China really makes it more likely that we're going to want to help arm Taiwan, help Taiwan protect itself. Is that how you see it?

WEI LU: Well, I think both the administration officials and the congressional leaders have used this sale as a leverage to tell the Chinese: If you don't break out of this diplomatic confrontation, that it's going to affect our decision on what weapons we're going to sell to the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese, they want the Aegis destroyer, you know, equipped with the advanced radar system.

MCEDWARDS: That's a ship-based radar system, right?

WEI LU: Right, right. The Chinese government is saying: You know, look, you don't want to sell this to the Taiwanese.

It's going to be, probably they are feeling part of the TMD, the theater missile defense system. So I think, while we are looking at this whole incident, we should always remember Taiwan is always in the backdrop of this whole thing. And the meeting is coming up next week. MCEDWARDS: Yes, right, April 18, a meeting to discuss some of the other issues. So, while this is -- I mean, it's over from the standpoint that the crew are going to come home as soon as possible.

WEI LU: Right.

MCEDWARDS: But it's not over in that there are still issues of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Does it help Taiwan if relations are strained between China and the U.S.?

WEI LU: In the long term, I think it will help the Taiwanese officials, thinking that China is going to be viewed as more aggressive. And that will help strengthen the relationship between Taipei and Washington.

MCEDWARDS: All right, so another major development of this story that we've got to watch in the weeks ahead as this unfolds.

WEI LU: I agree.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Thank you, Ya Wei Lu. Thank you for being here.

WEI LU: My pleasure.

MCEDWARDS: OK.

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