DoD News Briefing
Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA
Tuesday, April 5, 2001 - 1:45 p.m. EDT
Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
The Marine Corps will provide a briefing on the results of its Judge Advocate General Manual investigation into the December 11th crash of a V-22 Osprey near New River, North Carolina, immediately following this afternoon's briefing.
What we'll do is as soon as we're done here, we'll give a 15-minute break for filing and rearranging the room a little bit, and then the Marine briefing will begin here in the same room. The briefer will be Marine Corps Major General Marty Berndt, commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Craig, do you know whether the members of the crew of the airplane in Hainan Island have been either questioned or interrogated by the Chinese? And what are the guidelines for those crew members to respond to questions from the Chinese? What kind of information can they --
Quigley: Well, I can't go any further, I guess, in answer to the first part. We don't know. You can -- the Chinese have stated that they intend to conduct an investigation of their own into the accident, and I don't think it would be a big surprise that the crew of the EP-3 would be interviewed. But again, without an ability to talk directly to the crew and ask them about that, it's --
Q: Well there was -- excuse me. On, I think it was Tuesday, there was a direct conversation with the crew. Was that not addressed, whether they had been questioned?
Quigley: It's my understanding that was not addressed during that time, yeah, that 40 minutes.
Q: What can you tell us about how the two planes were flying? Was the Chinese fighter jet flying actually underneath the EP-3? And did the EP-3 veer to one side?
Quigley: A lot of these questions are going to have the same answer to them, and that's something that we really need to talk to the aircrew about in considerable detail. We are just not in as good a position as the aircrew themselves, of course, to understand exactly what happened to cause the accident. So that's a conversation that's got to happen first.
Q: Have there been any more EP-3 flights since this accident happened?
Quigley: I'm not going to get into any of our reconnaissance or surveillance flight activity before or since.
Q: As sort of a follow-on to that, Senator Lugar implied that the Chinese pilot that hit or at least collided with our plane was a hot dog, so to speak -- my words, not his -- that he had harassed this plane before, on previous missions. Can you expand on that a little bit? How many times did it happen? Were the missions comparable? What did he do before?
Quigley: Well, there have been instances in the last few months of times where we have felt that the Chinese fighter aircraft that came out to intercept our surveillance and reconnaissance flights got too close, and we let the Chinese know that in communications with them. But as far as the specific identity of those pilots, I don't know.
Q: In '98 the U.S. and China, under then-Secretary of Defense Cohen, signed a military consultative agreement that he said at the time was designed to help avoid misunderstandings on the air and the sea. Are there provisions of that agreement, perhaps, that provide for a joint investigation of this type of an incident, or other aspects of that agreement that come into play?
Quigley: It was signed in January of '98, as a matter of fact, so three years ago and a little. And it is designed to construct a framework whereby you can work out issues between China and the United States of both maritime and aviation rules. There are -- we can provide copies of the agreement to you after the brief, if you wish. It's fairly short. It's like four pages long.
But it is designed specifically to both create a framework that existed as of January '98, and to provide a construct for the future resolution of issues as they arise over time. So that's its purpose, and it is indeed in force.
Q: Have the Chinese lived up to the provisions of that agreement, or have they violated it involving this incident?
Quigley: I don't know.
Q: Does it include a provision for --
Q: Admiral, there are reports indicating that Lieutenant Shane Osborn was the pilot of the EP-3. Can you confirm or deny those?
Quigley: I don't know the specific positions. Now we've released the names of the 24 crewmembers, but I don't know the positions of any one of them in that group. I'm sorry.
Q: Can you say whether all the crew members, including the enlisted guys, who would have been at the back of the plane, had received SERE [survival, evasion, resistance, escape] training and what that training would have instructed them to do with respect to withstanding interrogation?
Quigley: No, I don't know if they have or not.
Q: Do you know the conditions of their incarceration that -- I've heard that the senior-most officer has been separated out, which may be an indication that they might try to hold him responsible for -- somehow for this mishap.
Quigley: No, I don't think we know that.
Q: Do we have a sense of how much equipment the crew was able to destroy before landing?
Quigley: No. I mean, again, as I mentioned Tuesday, you have procedures that the crews of aircraft, ships and submarines are trained to do emergency destruction of their prioritized, classified sorts of equipments. How much of that they got through, again, we need to talk to them directly to ascertain that.
Q: What can you tell us about the interview -- the 40 minutes? You give me 40 minutes with those guys, I'd get the whole story. What did you find out?
Quigley: Well, the readout given to me was, first and foremost, to ascertain their health and make sure that, in fact, none of the 24 were injured, that they were in good health; and they appeared to have not been mistreated in any way. They had some routine comfort items: deodorant, toothpaste, things of that sort, that they made requests of. And I believe those have now been delivered to them for their convenience and comfort. And beyond that I did not get a specific readout that I'm free to share. I'm sorry.
Q: You have additional information but it's classified?
Q: And you won't tell us then. You can't tell us because it's classified?
Q: Would you just -- first question: What are these crewmembers permitted to tell their Chinese hosts?
Q: Name, rank and --
Quigley: Say that again?
Q: What are the crewmembers permitted -- under military guidelines, what are they permitted to tell the Chinese when they come to question them?
Quigley: I don't think we have procedures -- specific procedures in place for a circumstance such as this.
Q: What about just name, rank and serial number? Does that no longer apply?
Quigley: Well, that's along the lines of a prisoner of war -- the strictures, and that's simply not the circumstance we have here.
Q: So they can be more forthcoming if they conduct an investigation of the collision?
Quigley: Well, again, I don't think we have a set process, Pat, that covers the very unusual circumstances we have here. And we'd have to speak to them to see what they have discussed with the Chinese.
Q: Can we interrogate you and get that classified information out of you?
Q: Craig, you said it's no big surprise that the Chinese would want to interview the air crew, but is it appropriate for them to be interviewed? And what are the parameters?
Quigley: Well, I don't think I'll stand here in Washington, D.C. and make that judgment.
Q: But you seem to think it's no -- you don't have any objection or problem with --
Quigley: We have no indication that they have been mistreated in any way, nor "interrogated," to use Bob's word. But I would think that it should come as no surprise to people that they've been interviewed. Now, the contents of that, the tone of that, we just don't know.
Q: Well, what kind of a disadvantage does it put the U.S. in terms of their -- "negotiations" is what the White House is now calling it -- in their negotiations with the Chinese? The Chinese have unfettered access to our crew and we don't. How do we in fact explain the U.S. position on this accident if we don't have access to the crew? What kind of disadvantage does that put the U.S. in?
Quigley: I think it strengthens, Mik, our desire to want to be able to talk to our crewmembers, and that is something we'd like to do as often as possible and in an unfettered way, but even more than that, we think it's just time for them to come home.
Q: And forgive me because I came in late, if you've already answered this. What do you know about these reports that say the EP-3 had just begun to change course, that it may have dipped its left wing in an effort to turn left and therefore then is when the Chinese fighter flew into them?
Quigley: Yeah. I've seen the reports, but in the absence of being able to talk to our aircrew directly, we just can't confirm those.
Q: Craig, are you saying that the United States government has no objection to that crew being questioned by Chinese authorities without any U.S. presence?
Quigley: No, I didn't say that.
Q: Do you have an objection to that?
Quigley: I think I'd put that back in diplomatic channels.
Q: And if I could follow up, was this pilot, the Chinese pilot who's missing -- Wang Wei -- is he --
Quigley: Yeah, we discussed that one, too, and I don't have any unclassified information for you on that.
Q: Well, is he known -- was he known to U.S. aircrews that patrolled that region?
Quigley: I don't have any unclassified information for you on that, either.
Q: Well, are there any pictures of him that were taken --
Quigley: You could perhaps ask the Chinese government.
Q: I mean, that were taken by U.S. aircrews? Are there any pictures of him or other Chinese pilots taken by U.S. aircrews that were on these surveillance missions?
Quigley: I don't know.
Q: If there are, can we ask that some be released?
Quigley: We'll take a look.
Q: You mentioned Tuesday that, I think, in the Cold War era that the Soviets regularly made flights similar to the flight of the EP-3 along the U.S. coast. Does anybody else do that now, either along the U.S. coast or overseas bases, those that we have left? For example, do the Chinese fly near the base at Okinawa?
Quigley: No, but the Chinese -- I mean, other countries in the world do reconnaissance and surveillance flights as a matter of routine, just as we do. And one of the countries that does that is China. Now, they don't range as far afield. They don't have the exact same system of bases and the same models of airplane and whatnot. Their flights tend to stay closer to their coast.
Q: How about naval ships? Do the Chinese have any surveillance like this off the U.S. coast done from ships?
Quigley: Not that I recall, no.
Q: With all this diplomacy going on has there been any military-to-military contacts, here at the Pentagon, for example?
Quigley: No, it's pretty much stuck to the diplomatic channels, through the State Department.
Q: Follow that up. What's the status of the military-to-military exchange program? Has that been suspended?
Quigley: It has not. No. As we've said before, the program past the end of May is under review. But it has not been suspended, the program before the end of May.
Q: Why not? And what kinds of things are scheduled --
Quigley: Because this was an accident. I don't think anybody took to the skies on the 1st of April in order to have a collision. And this is an accident, and we need to treat it as such.
Q: What kind of exchange --
Quigley: That is apples and oranges with whether or not this nation has a mil-to-mil relationship with China.
Q: What kind of exchanges are scheduled, and are there any scheduled for the near future, either U.S. to China, or China to the U.S.?
Quigley: There are no near-term exchanges scheduled.
Q: Any ship visits or port visits from either side?
Quigley: No. They're a form of mil-to-mil. But there are none of those scheduled for the near term.
Q: All right.
Quigley: Most recent would have been, I think, a couple weekends ago you had the Seventh Fleet flagship visit Shanghai, and I want to say a week or two before that Admiral Blair visited China as well. Those were the last ones, and I don't think we have any -- I'm sure we don't have any for the near term.
Q: During Admiral Blair's visits, did he discuss the concern over this brinksmanship that was occurring during these flights?
Quigley: I don't know.
Q: During the meeting between the attaches and the crew, Chinese were present. How did their presence influence the amount of information that could be exchanged between the two? You said you want unfettered access. Apparently this was fettered.
Quigley: More often, I would certainly say, is my real intention. Frequent and --
Q: How -- how did -- I'm sorry.
Quigley: Frequent and to be followed very quickly by their release.
Q: Without Chinese present, Chinese present? Does it matter?
Quigley: Again, the negotiations for that are in diplomatic channels, and I won't get in the way of that.
Q: I wanted to give you a chance to clarify your answer on the turn and whether the plane might have come up from below to strike the EP-3. We've heard about this turn, which -- and a lot of us assume it came from the debriefing, which you've read. Is -- when you said no, that you know nothing about this turn, did you mean to say you knew nothing about the turn -- that you could not talk about the turn because it was classified, or that it did not occur?
Quigley: To the best of my knowledge, it was not discussed in the 40 minutes that we've had with our aircrew so far.
Q: Craig, there are reports from background sources that say that much, if not most, of the classified equipment was destroyed. And the Hercule Poirot question is, how do we know?
Quigley: You would expect a well-trained crew to carry out their training and the emergency destruct procedures as best as they could, given the limited time frame available to them.
Q: But other than that, as a follow up, I mean, were there any pieces of paper, handshake to handshake, slipped off, any little comments, eye contact, where the members of the crew managed to tell the diplomatic crew that they had accomplished this?
Quigley: I've seen nothing in unclassified channels on that.
Q: The aircrew's still in the plane or in the facilities?
Quigley: I'm sorry?
Q: The air crew, the captives, are still inside the plane or in any facility at the --
Quigley: It's our understanding that they are not on the plane and they are being held in some sort of a facility separate from the plane. But we don't know exactly what that is.
Q: While in flight, did the plane notify authorities or notify communications or base that these planes had come upon them, A, and B, did they not also discuss the positions that those planes were taking while the plane was flying?
Quigley: Not that I have seen a record of, no.
Q: And number two, are there any alternative landing fields within the same sort of range or maybe even a little farther that this plane could have gone to, instead of this Chinese island?
Quigley: Not that I know of. I mean, again, after the collision -- the plane was seriously damaged in the collision. I mean, you've seen the images of the aircraft sitting on the runway in Hainan Island. And it -- I think it was considerable piece of airmanship for the pilot to bring that plane safely down and to get all 24 of the people on the ground safely.
Q: Craig, you said earlier that -- in a previous briefing that the plane issued a distress signal --
Q: -- on the international open frequency.
Q: Would you also consider, as long as I'm making requests for releasing things, can you release a tape or a transcript of that distress call?
Quigley: It would probably be on the EP-3.
Q: It's not recorded back at the --
Quigley: No, that's not -- that circuit, 121.5 megahertz, is not a circuit that is like a -- it's not a satellite broadcast or something like that. It is a fairly localized broadcast, you know, by design so that you can --
Q: But it's designed for someone to hear it, obviously, so somebody who hears it would presumably have some way of making a record of it or recording it or keeping track of it or knowing what it is. I'm just asking -- if anything like that's available, I'm just asking if it could be released.
Quigley: We'll take a look.
Q: I ran into four Chinese generals in the building today, the incoming and outgoing military attaches, apparently. I just wondered whether they talked to any officials here.
Quigley: I didn't know they were in the building. I don't know who they met with.
Q: So they did not meet with the secretary or --
Q: Does the Navy have any specific procedures for an aircraft commander to make a decision to ditch at sea outside the 12-mile limit under these kind of circumstances, where they have damage and can't reach a the nearest friendly base?
Quigley: Well, as I discussed Tuesday, the aircraft commander, all aircraft commanders understand the options that they have available to them to safely bring their aircraft down. Ditching is an option. To the best of my knowledge, this airplane has never been ditched at sea before. You also have a very likelihood, or certainly a possibility, of people to get injured or killed when you ditch an airplane at sea. So that pilot made a judgment call that his safest course of action to ensure the safety of the 24 people on that plane was to land the plane on Hainan Island. And he made that call.
Q: Just to follow up, did this pilot have any instructions or pre-brief orders that would tell him whether he should give more priority to the safety of the crew as opposed to, say, compromising sensitive information?
Quigley: I don't know.
Q: What steps has the military taken to secure its communications in case that there was a compromise, you know, for the Chinese to find out how the military is --
Quigley: I will say that we have taken what we consider to be prudent measures to minimize whatever compromise there may have been. But I can't provide you more details.
Q: Craig, since, as you said, there have been aggressive intercepts by the Chinese in the past few months, have EP-3 crews patrolling that region been given certain instructions or procedures to be aware of these flights or to take evasive action in case one did come close and clip it, as what happened?
Quigley: As far as specific recommendations on maneuvering, I would think that very unlikely. They're already experienced pilots and they understand how to handle their aircraft in the air. But they've also been very much made aware of the fact that over the past several months there have been intercepts by Chinese fighters. So this was not a first-time event, if you will.
Q: But they weren't told specifically to take any certain actions, again, if they saw them coming too close, or to radio back if they saw them coming too close?
Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: I apologize for going over this -- (inaudible) -- but between the distress call and the communication that was made when the aircraft was on the ground, were there any communications with any U.S. officials in that intervening time?
Quigley: Not that I know of, no. I think their focus was getting the airplane down safely.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld's statement yesterday was interesting in the conciliatory tone it struck. What I found interesting was that there was no statement of outrage that these crewmembers had been held for five days, essentially incommunicado. Is that the feeling of the building, that what's going on is not outrageous? Or is this an attempt to ratchet down the rhetoric and give the Chinese a way out? [Secretary Rumsfeld's statement is on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Apr2001/b04042001_bt143-01.html ]
Quigley: I don't think anybody's to the advantage to be too shrill in their comments at this point. This is a time for diplomacy to find the way ahead, and I don't recall the last time shrill comments contributed to diplomacy.
Q: You mentioned, or it's been mentioned several times, that the crew trained in the destruct procedures. One assumes, if they're trained, that there is some time limit by which these procedures are supposed to be accomplished. Understanding that we can't know what kind of stress they were under, given the airplane falling 8,000 feet, et cetera, can you tell us, under normal conditions, how long it should take a crew to complete the destruct process?
Quigley: No, I can't. I can't. The Navy might have that --
Q: But there is a parameter for that --
Quigley: You have got to figure that if you're performing emergency destruct procedures, there is nothing normal about your circumstance. So I would say that each and every time is different. Is my plane on fire? Am I in a steep dive? Is it -- what are my circumstances? I think you will always have a prioritization of your emergency destruction procedures where you try to get the most sensitive first and the least sensitive last, but in each and every case you're going to find the circumstances different, Dale. How much they were able to accomplish here, we're just going to have to wait and see.
Q: Wouldn't part of the training be, though, to simulate emergency conditions? For example, they would train to do this during a steep dive, or when the plane was in distress, to the extent that you could simulate that in a training exercise?
Quigley: I don't know. That's a fair question. But I don't know their training process.
Q: Craig, could you give us a sense of whether or not these 24 service personnel are going to be released anytime soon, and has the Pentagon made any preparations for sending in a repair crew? Do you have a repair crew --
Quigley: Well, I can't give you any sense of timing. I mean, we're hopeful that they're released as soon as possible. But it's going to be dependent on the process made on the diplomatic front. And Admiral Blair continues to make preparations for their safe return.
Q: And what kind of preparations are those? Do you have some kind of a team in Kadena that's ready to go in and fix this plane? Or -- what exactly --
Quigley: I'm not going to get into the preparations that Admiral Blair is preparing.
Q: Would there be any kind of sensors on board the aircraft which would allow it to know that another aircraft were flying at a very close proximity directly under it, and the pilot can't see whether -- ?
Quigley: I don't know. I don't know. I -- you would -- it would depend on the approach, and if you would have a visual on the plane, and it would come in on your port side, maybe, and then it would swing underneath, you'd kind of know that it's underneath you. But if it would come up underneath in a blind spot, I don't know if it has sensors. You might have something like an ESM [electronic support measures], a passive receiver, that if the fighter would have some sort of an airborne radar on, Vince, you might be able to detect that. But I'm not sure the exact answer to your question.
Q: Craig, you mentioned that the U.S. is taking prudent measures to minimize any compromise that might have taken place. Is there an emerging view within the intelligence people in the building in terms of if, in fact, the Chinese had a lot of access to the technology, would it be a tolerable loss of intelligence, or something fairly cataclysmic, or fairly serious?
Quigley: No, I think, you know, we really want to talk to the aircrew as a starting point for that. We've -- you know, in response to Toby's question, we've done what we think is, at least the near-term, prudent course of action to minimize whatever sort of damage there might be. We really would like to talk to the crew to ascertain, you know, how successful were they in carrying out the emergency destruct, Bill.
Q: You have an inventory of what's on the plane. I guess the sense I want to get from you is, is this cutting edge, state of the art intercept technology, or is it something that's been around long enough that if we lost parts of it or they gleaned some insights it might not be a major blow.
Quigley: Oh, we think the aircraft is very capable. But I can't characterize for you the extent of damage or severity or not severe. We really want to talk to the aircrew first and get a sense of that.
Q: Family members said yesterday that they had been told to possibly expect phone calls from the crewmembers, that the Chinese might allow them to do that. Any idea if that's happened? Or what has the military been doing to provide support to the families?
Quigley: The first part of your question -- I don't believe phone calls have taken place yet. We think that would be a great thing, and it certainly would be good for both the service members and their families to just be able to speak.
But I know that for the families -- now you have three different services involved here. You have 22 Navy, one Marine, and one Air Force -- people amongst the 24 members of the crew. So each of the services is handling the family notifications and continuing dialogue with the families in slightly different ways. But I'd say, across the board, they're trying their very best to keep in touch, try to answer as many questions as they possibly can, and make sure that the families know that there's somebody they can talk to and that there -- somebody's looking out for them and has a rock-solid commitment to share as much information on their loved one as they possibly can, as soon as they know it.
Q: Craig, can you tell us who made the decision to land at Hainan Island? Was that made by the senior officer on the EP-3, or did he consult with his superiors, presumably at JICPAC [Joint Intelligence Center Pacific] in Hawaii?
Quigley: I doubt that he had time to do that. I think it was strictly a safety, a flight issue, and as soon as he was issuing that Mayday, he was headed for the deck and to safely put that plane down.
Q: Did he consult with his superior before he did that, before he --
Quigley: Not that I know of. Not that I know of.
Q: Can you check on that? Can you take that question?
Quigley: I doubt I'll be able to provide you a near-term answer.
Q: Is the Pentagon --
Q: Was the pilot the mission commander?
Quigley: I don't know that either. We have a list of the names, but I don't have positions for any of the 24.
Q: Was the pilot -- is the identity or the -- who the pilot was or who was flying the plane in any way connected to protecting the pilot from criticism that he should have ditched his plane?
Q: Are you aware that there are some retired EP-3 pilots and crew members who --
Quigley: I have read that. I discount it completely. They cannot possibly understand what that pilot was going through at that moment. Only one person can -- him.
Q: Craig, have there been analogous situations in which Chinese or Russian planes have had to declare Maydays and land in sensitive U.S. places?
Quigley: There -- we did some research on that after Tuesday's brief, and I do think we have some information on that. Let me take that and see what we can provide. I don't have it with me here, but I believe so. [A Russian Aeroflot aircraft on Feb. 27, 1974, performing weather reconnaissance, made an emergency landing at St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. A China Eastern Airline flight lost altitude and made an emergency landing at Shemya Air Force Base, Alaska, on April 6, 1993.]
Q: Was there communication between the plane and its base after the F-8s showed up, but before the distress call? In other words, was the base aware that these F-8s had intercepted and were --
Quigley: I don't know. I don't know.
Q: Craig, I'd like to go back to the military exchange program. You described the relationship between this incident and that program as "apples and oranges." We know what the apple is: the detention of Americans. What's the purpose of this military exchange program?
Quigley: The same that it is with every other nation. It is to encourage dialogue on a regular basis and an exchange of people and views between the militaries of two nations, so that there is a greater understanding of how each does business and what's important to their respective cultures. And it's to demystify and to have a closer relationship between the militaries of those nations, whatever those two might be.
Q: Obviously, this incident would be a setback to those objectives, wouldn't it?
Quigley: Again, I think this is an accident that nobody intended to happen, and accidents take place --
Q: The point is that they're taking being detained. That's not an accident.
Quigley: No, that's true. But the accident that started this all out was an act that no one was anticipating or certainly hoping for in any way, shape or form. But I don't think that the purpose of a mil-to-mil program, in this case between China and the United States -- it's a program that we're taking a look at in the months ahead, but the basic value of the program to -- and it's something that happens over a long period of time -- is still worth pursuing because of the communications and actual human interchange that you have between ever more senior military members as they meet each other for the first time when they might be lieutenant commanders or majors, and they stay in their respective militaries for a career; and it's not just a bureaucracy or a nameless, faceless organization, you really know that person, or maybe those six people; and there is value in that over the long haul.
Q: Craig, since April the 1st, can you give us a snapshot of any activity from the DOD side on foreign military sales actions, either to Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, Japan, or any other Pacific Rim partners?
Quigley: I don't know on the Pacific Rim nations. I mean, we would have announced a foreign military sales contract if -- at the close of business every day if there were any. So I would just ask you to go back and see if there were any in the contracts that we released. As far as Taiwan, I know that this country has not yet completed the review of the Taiwan arms sale. This is the right month, but it's not done yet.
Q: But you don't know of any specific directives either from DoD or from the administration to DoD to put a hold on any of -- I know State is ultimately where this stuff has to start, but on your end of it, have you been directed to put a hold on any of the process or procedures that you have had under way for sales overseas?
Quigley: No, we have not.
Q: Has there been a decision to cut China out of the Army's beret business yet?
Quigley: No, we have not made that final call.
Q: Yes, I have two questions. You mentioned the '98 agreement with China. Is it similar to the '72 agreement with Russia? And was that agreement successful in defusing incidents between --
Quigley: I would have to sit down compare the two, and I'm not familiar with the contents of the '72 agreement with the then- Soviet Union. I would think that their over-arching goal might be very similar, but specifically what was agreed to, I am sure you will find differences and comparisons between the two, but I am not -- I do not have an understanding of what was in the '72 agreement.
Q: And the other question is, from looking at the pictures from the plane, can you assess which part of the structure, outside structure of the plane might have been dismantled by the Chinese?
Q: Thank you.