Gulf of Tonkin

Beijing rejects plea to fly out spy plane

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2001, 12:00am


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China yesterday denounced the resumption of spy flights by the United States and said the American plane stranded on Hainan Island could not leave by air.

The Pentagon said spy flights had resumed on Monday, with an RC-135 aircraft undertaking a mission off northeastern China.

It was the first since an EP-3E Aries II plane was forced to land on Hainan after a collision on April 1 with a Chinese F-8 fighter whose pilot was killed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi was quoted by Xinhua as saying that Beijing's opposition to such flights was clear and that it would continue to 'lodge serious representations' with the US.

'The US side should draw a lesson from recent incidents and correct such wrongdoing,' he said.

The US sent a team from the Lockheed Martin Corp to Hainan last week to inspect the plane. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday he hoped the EP-3 could be repaired and flown home.

But Mr Sun said China had stated several times during negotiations that it was impossible for the spy plane to fly back.

'The US side should take a pragmatic and constructive attitude so that the issue can be properly settled,' he said.

The US Embassy in Beijing declined to comment, but Ari Fleischer, a spokesman for President George W. Bush, said the US still believed that 'if the plane can fly, that's the most efficient, effective way to get the plane removed from China'.

'The United States will continue, through the State Department, to work with Chinese officials to resolve the matter,' he said.