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|Tuesday, August 14, 2001, updated at 10:45(GMT+8)|
US, China to Hold Talks on EP-3 Recovery PaymentThe United States said on Monday it wanted to hold talks with China after a new Sino-US row blew up when Washington offered only US$34,000 for costs incurred by a downed US spy plane.
China expressed its "utmost dissatisfaction" on Saturday at the "erroneous" US decision over fees related to the landing and repatriation of the EP-3 aircraft after a collision with a Chinese jet in April.
A Pentagon spokesman said Thursday the US offer was non-negotiable.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker announced on Monday that US officials had been in contact with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue.
"We'll try to arrange a meeting in Beijing at which time we can provide our official response and the rationale for our calculation of those costs," he said.
Reeker said the United States was only prepared to pay "tangible, reasonable costs" related to the recovery of the aircraft and some charges linked to housing 24 crew members stayed in China for 11 days after the landing on April 1.
But he avoided publicly backing the words of Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley Thursday who said the payment was "non negotiable. That's the end of it."
Reeker said that the United States had not yet formally informed China of its division.
The crippled EP-3 made an emergency landing at Lingshui airfield on Hainan island after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet. The pilot of the Chinese plane was killed.
China finally allowed the return of the aircraft on July 5. The spy plane was dismantled first and flown out of the country aboard a Russian cargo plane.
The incident caused new strains in already tense US-China relations.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said after visiting Beijing late last month that he believed the spy plane crisis was over -- but the row over the bill seems far from settled.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue was quoted as saying that "the so-called 'decision' is unacceptable to China both in its content and form."
"We urge the US side to correct its erroneous decision, and take into consideration the reasonable request of the Chinese side for an appropriate settlement of the payment issue," she added.
Sino-US relations have been tense since US President George W. Bush came to power earlier this year after disputes over US weapons sales to Taiwan.
But both sides have recently shown signs that they would like to ease tensions ahead of Bush's planned visit to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in October in Shanghai and onward travel to Beijing.
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