SLUG: 2-274391 U-S Plane China (L)2-274391 U-S Plane China (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: The Bush administration says it expects Beijing to return a Navy surveillance plane that collided with a Chinese jet and made an emergency landing in China. Washington is also seeking the safe return of the 24member crew. Beijing is blaming the U-S plane for the incident, and says the Chinese jet crashed as a result of the collision. Correspondent Deborah Tate has reaction from the White House.

TEXT: U-S officials say Ambassador to China Admiral Joseph Prueher met with China's vice foreign minister about the incident, which they say occurred during a routine reconnaissance mission in international air space over the South China Sea.

The U-S plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island after it collided with one of two Chinese fighter jets that intercepted its course. There are no reports of injuries to the U-S crew.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush was immediately notified of the matter. He says the United States expects China to return the crew.

U-S lawmakers are expressing concern about maintaining the secrecy of the high-technology electronic equipment aboard the aircraft.

Senator John McCain, a member of the Armed Services Committee and former Navy combat pilot who was shot down over Vietnam, said Chinese authorities should not enter or inspect the aircraft because of the sensitive technology on board. He made his comments on N-B-C's Meet the Press television program.

/// MCCAIN ACT ///

They should not enter the aircraft or have access to any equipment on board. I think that is the first major assurance we need from the Chinese.

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaking on C-N-N's Late Edition says the incident underscores the importance of continued engagement with China.


I think what is important now we obviously do not have all the facts is that the diplomatic channels be used to try to resolve this in the most peaceful way as possible.

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Senator Chuck Hagel of the Foreign Relations Committee speaking on the same program said the matter could have lasting consequences for U-S Sino relations.

/// HAGEL ACT ///

We are at a very important and delicate point right now in our relationship with China. How this is handled will go a long way as to the future of that relationship.

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Relations between Washington and Beijing have been strained in recent months over the possible U-S sale of advanced defensive military hardware to Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, and U-S plans for a national missile-defense system, which Beijing opposes. (SIGNED)