Truck move could be 'political'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 12:00am

The presence of military trucks near the stranded EP-3 spy plane on Hainan Island could be a political gesture by Chinese leaders designed to put pressure on Washington to give a formal apology, a Chinese scholar has suggested.

'It could be more a political gesture rather than a real move to remove equipment or to take down the US spy plane,' said Professor Shi Yanhong, who will soon join the American Institute at the People's University in Beijing.

If equipment really was being removed, it would signal 'an adverse turn of the negotiations, hinting that leaders see no hopeful way out', he said.

But Professor Shi, an expert in Sino-US strategic studies at Nanjing People's Liberation Army Academy, said the US spy plane would stay in China for some time after its crew were released.

The 24 Americans were unlikely to be sent home until the search for missing Chinese fighter pilot Wang Wei was called off, he said.

'We are still searching for the missing pilot,' the professor said. 'It is not yet time to consider the release of US crew.

'The American crew members might have to wait until Chinese leaders have exhausted all means to pressure the US for a formal apology for the incident.'

The Chinese military had been more vocal over the spy plane collision than over the 1999 Nato bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade, indicating it was playing a more active role this time around, he said.

This tougher stance showed that the military saw the collision as further confirmation of its belief that the new US administration under President George W. Bush was hostile towards China, Professor Shi said.