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China U.S., Deadlocked in Spy Plane Crisis

China and the United States were deadlocked on Tuesday in the dispute over a U.S. spy plane and its 24 crew held in China, with both sides sticking to their positions but still talking.

China continued to insist on a U.S. apology for the April 1 collision between the U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft and a Chinese jet fighter that crashed into the South China Sea. Its pilot is missing and presumed dead.

President Bush has expressed regret for the incident and Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Washington is ``sorry'' for the loss of life -- using a word that Beijing took as a step forward.

``The U.S. use of the word sorry is a step in the right direction, but we don't think this issue is fully solved. We still urge the U.S. to take a positive attitude and take the stance of the Chinese side seriously,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said. ``Since the U.S. side has done something wrong first, it is purely their responsibility to apologize.''

And there were a few other signs of movement in the worst crisis between the two powers since NATO aircraft bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by mistake in May 1999 during alliance air strikes on the Yugoslav capital.

China Relaxes Restrictions

China relaxed restrictions on the 24 crew confined to a guest house in central Haikou, capital of Hainan island.

``They are being given additional privileges from previous meetings, with regard to their freedom within the building, the ability to do their PT (exercise) inside the building and things such as that,'' U.S. Defense Attache Neal Sealock told reporters after a fifth meeting with the detainees.

``The Chinese side, and in fact, the folks that are with them provided some cigarettes for those who smoked, and they're getting just about everything that they need,'' he said. ``I can't say enough about the conditions that they're in. They're extremely good conditions.''

Bush said he was doing all he could to end the ``stalemate'' with China and cautioned Americans that diplomacy took time.

``This administration is doing everything we can to end the stalemate in an efficient way. We're making the right decisions to bring (it) to an end,'' Bush told reporters. ``Diplomacy sometimes takes a little longer than people would like.''

In a sign that public pressure may be building on Bush to find a resolution, a poll showed most Americans viewed the 24 crew members as ``hostages.''

The U.S. ambassador to China, Joseph Prueher, did not have any meetings with the Chinese in Beijing on Tuesday, but State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he was ``ready to see the Chinese again, any time, any day, 24 hours a day, whenever they're ready to continue these discussions.''

Contacts Continue

The White House said contacts continued at other levels and it was trying to strike a ``delicate balance'' between giving diplomacy time to bring the crew back and seeing U.S.-Chinese relations harmed if the 10-day standoff drags on.

The White House politely rebuffed an offer by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader and former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, to try to broker a solution, saying it preferred using regular government contacts.

Veteran Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew urged Washington not to compromise with Beijing.

``Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew is urging the United States to take an uncompromising stance toward the People's Republic of China in negotiations concerning the return of the American spy plane...,'' according to a report of an interview provided to Reuters by the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan  asked China's ambassador to tell President Jiang Zemin he was worried ``that the current standoff between the United States and China is not in the interests of either country or, in fact, of the rest of us.''

Annan had conveyed a similar message to the United States, chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

Jiang arrived in Uruguay on Tuesday to continue a Latin American tour that has been overshadowed by the crisis. In Brazil, his next stop, a foreign ministry official said U.S. officials had asked Brazil to raise the dispute with the Chinese leader.

 

 

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