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U.S.-China Spy Plane Standoff Surveillance Plane Standoff
China announced Wednesday that the 24 member crew of a U.S. Navy EP-3E surveillance plane would be released after an 11-day standoff. The U.S. plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet and was forced to land on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, has not been found and has been presumed dead.

Read how the events unfolded.

April 1 – A U.S. EP-3E Navy aircraft, on a "routine surveillance" mission over the South China Sea, is involved in a collision with a Chinese fighter.

The U.S. plane makes an emergency landing on the southern Chinese island of Hainan without permission.

China and the U.S. exchange blame for the incident.

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April 2 – President Bush says he is "troubled" by Chinese government's inaction. He demands access to crew and the plane's return "without any further tampering."

China shows no interest in U.S. offer to help search for Chinese jet and its missing pilot.

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April 3 – U.S. Ambassador to China Joseph Prueher says Chinese have been "all over" the top-secret plane. U.S. diplomats obtain first direct contact with plane's crew and find the 21 men and three women in good health.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin says United States must "bear full responsibility"; asks for an apology and calls on Bush to halt all spy flights near China's coast.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington has "nothing to apologise for"; refers to the crew as "detained."

Bush says it is time for plane and its crew to come home; says accident has "the potential of undermining our hopes for a fruitful and productive relationship."

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April 4 – Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan berates the United States for "arrogance" and "repeated errors."

U.S. defence officials say crew destroyed all sensitive reconnaissance data before Chinese military boarded the plane.

Jiang, leaving for a South American tour, repeats call for an American apology. The U.S. spurns the demand.

Powell expresses regret over the loss of the Chinese pilot and reinforces the gesture with a letter; White House says it is up to China to avert an international incident.

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April 5 – China Foreign Ministry says U.S. regrets are "a step in the right direction" but repeats demand for full apology; Washington presses for second meeting with the detained crew; China says Washington must adopt a "cooperative approach."

Bush expresses regret for the loss of the Chinese pilot; says he does not want the dispute to destabilise U.S.-China relations but adds that the crew should come home.

Jiang, in Chile, says Beijing and Washington should give top priority to bilateral relations in resolving the dispute.

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April 6 – China welcomes Bush's expression of regret but holds out for a full U.S. apology for the collision.

U.S. diplomats meet plane's crew for a second time.

Bush says efforts to resolve dispute are "making progress." Powell says "rather precise ideas" exchanged.

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) says the two sides are working on a written agreement on what happened.

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April 7 – U.S. officials visit detained crew for a third time; say they are being treated well.

Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, calls crew "hostages."

Washington rebuffs another Beijing demand for an apology.

White House says Washington and Beijing make progress on a written accord.

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April 8 – U.S. warns that long-term relations are at risk; Vice President Dick Cheney insists Washington will not apologise over the incident.

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April 9 – U.S. diplomats, pressing again for twice-daily unfettered access to the crew, make fourth visit to the service personnel. Senior U.S. diplomat says meeting successful, crew in excellent health and living in a "hotel environment."

Bush again warns U.S.-China relations could be damaged if crew continue to be held.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bang Zao, traveling with President Jiang Zemin on a tour of Latin America, repeats Beijing's demand for an apology, saying it is far from satisfied with Washington's comments so far.

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April 10 – China says use of word sorry by Powell over the death of Chinese pilot is step towards resolving standoff but Beijing still insists Washington must apologise for spy plane incident.

China eases restrictions on crew; U.S. officials visit crew for fifth time and say they in good spirits.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson says willing to go to China to try to win release of the 24. White House declines the offer. Poll shows most Americans regard crew as hostages.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin urges the U.S. and China on Tuesday to find an "adequate solution" to the standoff.

President Bush describes the situation as a "stalemate" and cautions Americans that diplomacy takes time.

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April 11 – Chinese media report Powell using the words "sorrow" and "regret" over the incident and set the scene for a resolution which could be presented as an apology.

The U.S. gives China a letter telling China's people and the pilot's family that it is "very sorry" for their loss of the pilot and his plane and "very sorry" that the U.S. plane had no verbal clearance when it entered Chinese airspace and landed.

China says that the 24 Americans will be released out of "humanitarian considerations" after the two sides had completed the "relevant procedures."

Bush says the aim is to bring home the detained Americans as soon as possible.

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April 12 – The crew departs Hainan island, headed for Guam and then on to Honolulu for a debriefing before returning to their homes.



Compiled from Reuters and Washington Post reports.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company




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