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U.S. Aircrew to Be Released 'Promptly,' Bush Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2001 – U.S. and Chinese diplomats have come to an agreement that will soon result in the release of the U.S. aircrew that has been detained on China's Hainan Island for 11 days.

President Bush announced the pending release at an April 11 White House press conference.

Bush To Meet With EP-3 Sailor's Family

By Gerry J. Gilmore

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2001 -- President Bush told an audience at a school in Charlotte, N.C., today that he was about to meet with the North Carolina family of one of the Navy EP-3 crewmen being held in China.

"Right after my visit here, I am going to meet with the family of Petty Officer 3rd class Steven Blocher," Bush told students and teachers at Concord Middle School. "As you know, Steven is one of our 24 service men and women in China. I'm really looking forward to letting Steven's family know that we're in the process of bringing their son home."

Before he left for Charlotte, Bush announced in Washington that U.S. and Chinese diplomats had reached an agreement to release the 24-member Navy EP-3 aircrew detained on Hainan for 11 days. He spoke at the school shortly before a chartered airliner took off from Guam at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time to pick up the crew.

Bush said he would tell the Blochers "how much America appreciates their son's patriotism and service to his country, and how much we appreciate the service of our men and women in uniform throughout the world."

"This morning the Chinese government assured our American ambassador that the crew would leave promptly," Bush said. "We're working on arrangements to pick them up and to bring them home."

He called the situation difficult "for both our countries," and again offered condolences to the widow and son of Wang Wei, the Chinese pilot whose fighter jet collided March 31 with a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft that was flying a routine mission in international airspace over the South China Sea.

"I know the American people join me in expressing sorrow for the loss of life of the Chinese pilot. Our prayers are with his wife and his child," he said.

Bush said he appreciates "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," he concluded.

On April 11, Prueher said he presented a letter from the U.S. government to the Chinese foreign minister that sought to resolve the situation. The letter notes the U.S. government's regret over the loss of the missing Chinese pilot, presumed dead, and his aircraft. The letter also notes the U.S. government is sorry the damaged U.S. plane entered Chinese airspace to make an unauthorized emergency landing on Hainan.

The letter expressed appreciation for China's efforts to see to the well-being of the American crew.

According to the letter, the American and Chinese governments agreed to hold an April 18 meeting to discuss the causes of the mid-air collision and possible recommendations to avoid such incidents in the future.

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Related Sites:
Remarks by the President on Release of American Servicemen and Women in China, April 11, 2001
Letter from Ambassador Prueher to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Tang, April 11, 2001
Statement by the White House press secretary, April 11, 2001
Secretary Rumsfeld on Return of EP-3 Crew, April 11, 2001

Related Articles:
Air Crew 'Detained,' Well Treated by Chinese

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