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China repatriates U.S. air crew

Posted April. 12, 2001 12:46,   


All 24 crew members of the U.S. spy plane that made an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan after colliding with two Chinese fighters will return home soon.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, disclosing that his government received a letter of apology for the incident from the U.S. administration, said that Beijing would send back all the crew members as soon as required procedures were completed.

It was learned that all necessary procedures were underway for the departure of the crew and that they were expected to return home on Thursday at the earliest.

In a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to China Joseph Prueher on Wednesday, Minister Tang said that the dispute over the collision was not completely resolved but that his government had decided to allow the crew to return home in consideration of the U.S. government`s requests and the feelings of their families.

In a statement released on Wednesday, U.S. President George W. Bush noted that the 11-day standoff with China was difficult for both countries, adding that the ``American people join me in expressing sorrow for the loss of life of a Chinese pilot.``

CNN reported that a chartered Continental Airlines plane was preparing to take off from the U.S. military air base on Guam and that the released crew were expected to be transported to Hawaii via Guam.

Meanwhile, the New China News Agency reported that the U.S. government sent a letter to the Chinese government expressing deep regret for the fact that its spy plane had entered Chinese airspace without permission.

Lee Jong-Hwan ljhzip@donga.com