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U.S.-China Aircraft Collision Incident


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  • 1. Professor: Dr.Amir Dhia Case Study by: Bhargav KAKARALA © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 2. Question before us : Conflict Negotiations Chinese F-8 Fighter Jet US Navy EP-3 E Aries II © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 3. Contents © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 4. Incident Outline
    • A US EP-3 Aries II spy plane collides with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea.
    • The fighter crashes, killing the pilot; the EP-3 makes an emergency landing at a Chinese air base on China’s Hainan Island, a landing described as illegal by Chinese officials
    • 24 American crewmen—including three women and eight code-breakers—are taken into custody by the Chinese.
    • The incident is the Bush administration’s first real foreign-policy crisis .
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 5. Where ? © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 6. View from USA
    • On 1 April 0915 (local time), the EP-3 plane was on a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the South China Sea.
    • It was intercepted by two Chinese fighter aircraft. US Admiral Dennis Blair said such encounters were not unusual.
    • The collision occurred 70 miles off the Chinese island of Hainan
    • No communication between Chinese and American pilots
    • Bush administration officials say that the EP-3 was not “Spying” on China and the plane was unarmed.
    • The last communication from the plane was that it had landed safely and all 24 military personnel on board were uninjured .
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 7. View from China
    • After detecting a US plane conducting surveillance off the city of Sanya, two Chinese F-8 fighter jets took off and carried out ''routine tracking'' of the aircraft.
    • At 0907 the all the planes were flying in the same direction, 400m apart with the US plane on the right.
    • A Defence Ministry spokesman said ''the immediate cause of the collision was the violation of flight rules by the US plane which made a sudden and big movement to veer towards the Chinese plane'‘
    • The US plane's nose and left wing rammed the tail of one of the Chinese planes causing it to lose control and plunge into the sea.
    • At 0933 the US plane illegally entered Chinese territorial airspace and landed at Lingshui Airport in Hainan
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 8. Analysts View
    • Nobody really knows how or why the mid-air collision happened.
    • The slightest misjudgement by either the US or Chinese pilot could have caused the collision.
    • Chinese F8 fighters were dispatched to intercept the US surveillance plane.
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 9. Political Culture
    • US sought business-like interaction and quick resolution.
    • China reacted with a victim mentality,moral indignation and accusations to extract an apology,using the formal word «DAOQIAN»
    • Through out the incident Chinese govt preferred to work with the Americans through normal diplomatic channels.
    • Both countries tried to buttress their position with respective legal arguements.
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 10. Chinese Demands
    • A day after Chinese president Jiang Zemin demands that the US apologize for the crash of a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet that cost the life of the Chinese pilot.
    • Chinese authorities say they will continue to detain the 24 crew members while they investigate the incident, and demand that the US halt all of its surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
    • April 4-5, 2001: Secretary of State Colin Powell Expresses ‘Regret’ Over US Spy Plane Crash.
    • The next day, China’s Foreign Ministry says that Powell’s expression of regret is not enough; it again demands a full US apology and says that its officials will only meet with US officials to discuss the incident when Washington takes what it calls a “cooperative approach.
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 11. USA Refuses
    • On April 7, some details of the written agreement are revealed, with the US expressing further regrets over the death of the pilot of the Chinese fighter jet involved in the collision, but without the formal apology demanded by China
    • April 8, 2001: US Refuses to Apologize for Collision of Spy Plane with Chinese Fighter
    • President Bush sends an unsigned letter to the wife of the slain Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, that expresses his “regret” over his death.
    • Secretary of State Colin Powell says the letter is “very personal” and “not part of the political exchange.”
    • It is not publicly revealed until 2006 that President Bush secretly engaged Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to conduct the delicate negotiations with the Chinese over the US aircraft and crew
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 12. Letter of Regret
    • The dispute between the US and China over the downed US spy plane over Chinese territory, and the subsequent detention of the crew by the Chinese is resolved.
    • In Beijing on April 11, Ambassador prueher sent a letter of regret, with agreed wording in English to show regret and sorrow without an apology.
    • The letter expressed “Sincere Regret” and the United States is “very sorry” for the loss of pilot, Wang Wei.
    • Also, while noting that US aircraft had to make an emergency landing for the safety of the crew, the letter expressed that United States is “very sorry” the EP-3 entered China’s airspace without verbal clearance.
    • The letter included the expectation that the crew would be allowed to leave china “as soon as possible”
    • The US agreed to hold one meeting starting on April 18 th to discuss the incident .
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 13. Conclusion
    • United States did not apologize for conducting signals reconnaissance off the coast of China, nor did the United States explicitly accept responsibility for the collision, only expressing that they were sorry for the loss of Wang Wei and "sincere regret over (China's) missing pilot and aircraft.“
    • The letter itself was written in English ; an official translation into Chinese was not offered by the U.S. government because the Chinese language has several words representing various degrees of "sorry", and the U.S. government did not want to misrepresent itself by choosing the wrong word. Hence, interpretation of the correct translation of "sorry" was left to the Chinese government.
    © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 14. Official Letter Copy Dear Mr. Minister,        On behalf of the United States Government, I now outline steps to resolve this issue.       Both President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have expressed their sincere regret over your missing pilot and aircraft. Please convey to the Chinese people and to the family of the pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss.       Although the full picture of what transpired is still unclear, according to our information, our severely crippled aircraft made an emergency landing after following international emergency procedures. We are very sorry the entering of China’s airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance, but very pleased the crew landed safely. We appreciate China’s efforts to see to the well-being of our crew.       In view of the tragic incident and based on my discussions with your representative, we have agreed to the following actions:        Both sides agree to hold a meeting to discuss the incident. My government understands and expects that our aircrew will be permitted to depart China as soon as possible.        The meeting would start April 18, 2001.       The meeting agenda would include discussion of the cause of the incident, possible recommendations whereby such collisions could be avoided in the future, development of a plan for prompt return of the EP-3 aircraft, and other related issues. We acknowledge your government’s intention to raise U.S. reconnaissance missions near China in the meeting.        Sincerely,       Joseph W. Prueher letter from U.S. Ambassador Joseph Prueher to Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, as issued by the U.S. embassy on Wednesday April 11, 2001, and remarks of President Bush: BONUS SLIDE © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris
  • 15. George W.Bush Remarks George W. Bush's Remarks at the White House on April 11:         I'm pleased to be able to tell the American people that plans are underway to bring home our 24 American servicemen and women from Hainan Island. This morning, the Chinese government assured our American Ambassador that the crew would leave promptly. We're working on arrangements to pick them up and to bring them home. This has been a difficult situation for both our countries. I know the American people join me in expressing sorrow for the loss of life of a Chinese pilot. Our prayers are with his wife and his child. I appreciate the hard work of our Ambassador to China, Joseph Prueher, and his entire embassy team, who worked tirelessly to solve this situation. The American people, their families, and I are proud of our crew, and we look forward to welcoming them home. Thank you. BONUS SLIDE © Bhargav Kakarala, Paris