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.
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
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 .
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.