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U.S. Spy-plane Collides with Chinese Fighter, Lands on Chinese Island

Date Posted: 2001-04-06

A U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft had an in-flight collision with a Chinese fighter, Sunday, and made an emergency landing on an airfield on Chinese Hainan Island south-west from Hong Kong. The plane that is assigned to Misawa Air Base had been taking off on its mission from Kadena. The Chinese fighter that collided with the EP-3 reportedly crashed into the ocean.

The Chinese officials have said that the aircraft’s 24-member crew is safe and no one is hurt.

Diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing hoped to be able to meet the crew Tuesday. Some reports say that the crew has been quartered in a Chinese Air Force guest house.
Both sides accused each other for the accident. The U.S. side has also emphasized that the Chinese have no right to enter the top-secret plane or inspect it. According to a Navy spokesman in Honolulu, “the entire aircraft is considered sovereign U.S. territory, and the Chinese have no right to enter, seize or inspect it without U.S. permission.”

The U.S. side said that two Chinese fighters had caused the accident after one of the bumped into the wing of the American aircraft. The Chinese blame on the U.S. saying that the collision was caused by the American plane when it suddenly changed course. The Chinese also demanded and official apology and compensation for the crashed fighter. The search for the pilot of the downed plane is said to continue.

The head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Dennis Blair said that the accident had been waiting to happen, because the Chinese had changed their tactics to much more aggressive lately, for which the American side had complained at ‘lower level.’

The White House has said that it expects an expedient return of the crew and the aircraft. Observers say that the matter of how long it takes for China to return the plane and the crew is an indicator on how they are going to proceed on the relations with the new U.S. administration. The longer the Chinese keep the plane, the more it would rise American suspicions that the secrets of the plane have been compromised.

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