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DoD News Briefing - Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA

Presenters: Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA
April 10, 2001 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, April 10, 2001, 1:30 p.m. EDT

ADM. QUIGLEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a couple of announcements to make this afternoon.

The threat of major over-land flooding in Minnesota's Red River and Minnesota River Basins has generated a call-up of more than 170 Minnesota Army National Guardsmen for state active duty since last Saturday. They are serving to provide traffic control, dike patrol, and evacuation in the Breckenridge area.

Second, today we have a release that announces the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Veterans Affairs have completed and published a peer-reviewed epidemiological study that has found that military personnel are at three to five times lower risk of hepatitis C virus infection than the civilian population. The study is one of the largest of its kind ever conducted, and copies are available at the back of the room.

And finally, a note of passage. This morning, at 10:00 pacific time, which is only 30 minutes ago our time, the Air Logistics Center at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California held its closure ceremony. The Air Logistics Center there is now run by the County of Sacramento. More than 2,500 jobs have been created at the new industrial park there. McClellan Air Force Base is the second-to-the- last base to close from the 1995 round of base closures. Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas is the last base from that BRAC process, and is scheduled to shut its gates in July of this year.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Why was the EP-3 on autopilot before the crash happened with the Chinese fighter jet? And how close did the jet, on the first two passes, actually come to the EP-3? And did it, in fact, hit the propeller?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Let me answer your question quite broadly. I will not get into the details of the specific conditions on the airplane, any sort of geometry involving the two aircraft in any sort of a haphazard, piecemeal way. That's not the way to do this.

When we get our aircrew out and have an opportunity to discuss in great technical detail with them their observations and judgment of the conditions surrounding the collision, only then will we be able to come to a comprehensive answer to your question, which is really, how did this collision occur? And today, we cannot say with any degree of confidence, as you hear little pieces of this and that starting to come out on an hourly basis, it seems, from somewhere in the building -- I have no confidence that that presents a comprehensive picture of any sort of meaningful detail of the circumstances that surrounded the collision. We will do this the right way. And the right way is to have a very methodical talk with the aircrew, those in the best position to understand and observe first-hand, of course, what happened after they are released.

Yes.

Q: Well, Craig, General Sealock and others have had an opportunity to meet with the crewmembers five times now.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Correct.

Q: And most of those now apparently without the Chinese. By your statement, are you indicating that the room is bugged, that we haven't had forthright discussions in these meetings?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No.

Q: That we haven't been able to learn anything from them?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I think the discussions we have had between General Sealock and the crew members over the past several days have been very welcome and very honest. What they don't -- what they aren't is a comprehensive, systematic way to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the collision. And whatever small details may be discussed there, for starters, this is not the way to release that, in a piecemeal way. His discussions are sometimes involving sensitive personal information amongst the crew members that they wish to convey to their families and loved ones back home, and sometimes it's technical information. But what it isn't is comprehensive and systematic. And I don't think it's helpful to release or discuss any small pieces of that in isolation. What you need to do is a much more holistic approach to understanding the circumstances surrounding the collision.

Q: Can we go back again to exactly what it is?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Sure.

Q: Some of the -- a little more detail, you said some it's sensitive information, and some of it's -- can you sort of give us a range of the subjects they've been discussing?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I think General Sealock and his discussions at his press conferences have covered that quite thoroughly. And I can go back and recap, but I would refer you to his own words. Those are the details that he feels comfortable in releasing, and I will stick with those.

Yes, sir.

Q: Admiral, do you have anything on China's apparent plans to conduct a nuclear weapons test in Xinjiang?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I'm sorry, I don't have anything for you on that. Whatever information we would have on that would be in intelligence channels, and I cannot discuss that.

Chris.

Q: Craig, what's the Pentagon's classification of these 24 Americans now?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Detainees.

Q: And it's not approaching hostages now 10 days into this? Detainees is the official --

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I don't think so. I think that's the correct term. Hostages, to me, says a couple of things that we don't see. You don't have access to hostages. They are kept from you. And in the case of our aircrew, we have had several meetings, five now, meetings with the aircrew over a period of days. We think that's great. And we hope that that will continue and even be more often. But it's not a situation you would see with a hostage situation.

You also don't see hostages generally being treated very well, and our 24 aircrew are being treated very well by the Chinese.

So the term that we think is appropriate is "detainees."

Q: And how would you respond to members of Congress who are using the word "hostage" right now?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, I guess I would try to convince them that the word detainee is more appropriate.

We also -- let me throw one other thing in. If a person is detained -- if a military person is detained, that allows us, the Department of Defense and their parent service, to carry out some financial and personal items of business that they may wish to want accomplished on their behalf -- and, again, they can relay this through General Sealock -- things like financial details, powers of attorney, military allotments, things of that sort that have a direct impact on the individuals. Everybody's circumstance is different, but an individual may have a real need to convey a change in some sort of a financial arrangement. Given their desire to do so, by declaring them as detainees that puts them in a particular legal category, and that would empower the parent service, then, to take those actions on their behalf.

Pam.

Q: Would you dispute the term "prisoner?" And does the financial transactions include an extension of tax filing?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Say that again, I'm sorry?

Q: Prisoner -- do you have the same problems with using the word "prisoner" that you do with hostage?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Yes.

Q: For what reason?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Again, I don't think the terms apply. I think of a prisoner, I think of somebody behind bars. I think of someone charged with a crime. Those circumstances are not present.

Q: And are they going to be given an extension to file their taxes?

ADM. QUIGLEY: One of the benefits of being declared a detainee is an automatic extension of your income tax filing date, should that occur. We are hopeful that they would be released before that's an issue.

Q: Craig, is the United States aware of any evidence that the Chinese are dismantling anything from the exterior of the plane?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No. I'm sure you're referring to the image that -- Space Imaging, I believe. It was a commercial imaging firm with a photographic satellite in orbit yesterday. I've seen the image that you're referring to, and there is an apparent shading, or something, it looks like, on the starboard side of the aircraft. I can't explain the shading but, from a variety of sources, we have no such indication that there is some sort of disassembly of the airplane taking place at that part of the plane.

Q: An EP-3 has sort of a hood on top of it, or some people have described it as sort of canoe in which houses some equipment. The comparison of the pictures that were from commercially available satellite imagery raised speculation that it looked like, perhaps, that hood wasn't on the second picture. Do you have reason to believe that it -- the plane is still intact?

ADM. QUIGLEY: The only thing I can go into, Jamie, is that, from the sources that we have -- a variety of sources -- that shading which kind of looked -- kind of looked like you were disassembling the aircraft from the side, we have no such evidence that that's occurring.

Toby?

Q: Have you ruled out another EP-3 flight while the crew is being held on Hainan?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, we have not.

Q: Will there be another EP-3 flight?

ADM. QUIGLEY: That I cannot acknowledge. We do not discuss the scheduling of reconnaissance and surveillance flights around the world.

Tom?

Q: Given the aggressiveness of the Chinese in intercepting these flights in the last few months, and the expectation that that is likely to continue barring some kind of understanding, what thought has been given to perhaps improving security for those pilots, maybe providing fighter escorts? Or is there anything that could be done to make those flights more secure?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, I have not heard that discussed yet. I don't know that it will be when the time comes. But these are -- the types of planes that are involved here have very, very long legs. They stay scrupulously in international airspace by design. And we have not found it appropriate to provide some sort of armed escort, I think is probably what you're actually asking, to these reconnaissance and surveillance flights over time. I know of no pending to change to that. We'll just have to look at it on a case basis over time. But I have not heard that discussed yet.

Sir?

Q: The plane obviously did not ditch into water, but can you confirm that it is normally the standard procedure that if they -- in case of emergency, the plane would normally ditch, as is the standard procedure or rule, apparently, also in Europe and Israel?

ADM. QUIGLEY: You have -- the pilots of all types of planes are trained to bring their aircraft down in cases of emergency in the safest way that they can. It is their judgment and their judgment alone that determines which method that might be. If you are physically incapable of landing your plane on land at some runway or airfield facility and you are literally in the middle of the ocean and water on hundreds of miles or something on either side, you have no choice, you must bring it down by ditching at that point or parachuting from the aircraft. But if you have a choice, then you rely on the judgment of the pilot, the person that is best situated to make that quick decision to safely bring the plane down and provide the highest chance of safe landing for the people under his or her responsibility.

Q: After talking to the pilot, Mr. Osborn, I understand, were you able to assess why did he choose Hainan instead of, let's say, Vietnam? Is that because he was forced by the other plane or --

ADM. QUIGLEY: No. I don't know that that's been discussed yet. Just in general, it's a quick decision that any aircraft commander, any pilot, has to make, and you assess as best you can and you make a quick judgment and you hope that you made the right decision. In this case, since he safely landed the plane, damaged though it was, with no injury to any of the 24 persons onboard, I'd be hard-pressed to criticize that decision.

Q: Admiral can you characterize in any way the kind of questioning that the crew has been subjected to by the Chinese? Have they been asked about the accident itself, the mishap itself? Have they been questioned about the technical operations of the aircraft? Could you talk about that, because we do know that they have been questioned by the Chinese.

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I can't. Yeah, I know that they have been questioned, but I can't characterize the types of questions.

Q: Can you get into the frequency of how -- is it every day? How long is it every day that the Chinese are questioning them?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I've not seen that discussed either. It has been several times, but I don't know how many times or duration or things of that sort, I don't --

Q: Individuals or in groups --

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't know that either.

Q: Do you know, does it continue? Has it stopped or --

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't believe it has stopped, no.

Q: Is there a difference between "interviewing" and "interrogating"?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Oh, very much so. Interviewing -- "questioning" is the term that I would use. The crewmembers have been questioned by the Chinese authorities. To me, that is a much-less threatening term than "interrogation." And again, given the circumstances as we understand them, I think "questioning" is the more appropriate term.

Chris?

Q: Is the Kitty Hawk still in the South China Sea or has it passed out to the East?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't know where she is at this point.

Pam?

Q: When are the weapons to Taiwan decisions going to be announced? And are they in any way influenced by this ongoing conflict?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Two different issues. The answer is the month of April, but I don't have a date within this month.

Q: Getting back to the issue of questioning, can you talk about what the crew's reaction has been? And what is the standard procedure in these kinds of cases? Is it just name, rank and serial number? What kind of limitations do the crew have operationally in terms of asking -- answering questions?

ADM. QUIGLEY: The name, rank, and serial number strictures that you discuss are those that are in place for a prisoner of war -- again, an inappropriate description, I believe, to describe what we have here.

They're precluded, as any of us are, from discussing classified information, the details of the capabilities and limitations of their equipment, any sorts of classified information on the equipment or the aircraft itself. But beyond that, I can't characterize what sorts of questions are being answered or -- they're being asked, or how they are answering the questions.

Q: No, but you talked about and you've stressed over and over the need for a comprehensive investigation and that you do not want to -- that the United States' policy is that it will not comment on what it believes happened until there's been this rigorous and systematic debriefing. Do those rules apply also to the Chinese? In other words, have the crew been instructed or are the crew under instructions similarly not to answer questions from the Chinese about what took place on -- in the air until there has been a debriefing by their American commanders?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I know of no such instructions that have been given to the aircrew. We're relying on their good common sense, training, and judgment to know what they are comfortable in answering and which questions they should decline to answer.

Q: So, in other words, there is no prohibition on them answering questions about what took place in the air?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Not that I'm aware of, no. No, the Chinese have said that they intend to investigate this accident. How they go about doing that, beyond questioning the American aircrew, I do not know. But you can expect that some of their questions to the aircrew would be about the details involving the accident. I don't know that for sure, but to me, that would seem likely.

Q: Admiral Quigley --

ADM. QUIGLEY: Yes?

Q: Would any intelligence loss, something going through the hand of the Chinese, be detrimental to NATO allies also, as Jane's magazine assumes?

ADM. QUIGLEY: We share a lot of intelligence information with our NATO allies, and they with us, by design. If the abilities of this surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft were to somehow be marginalized by the compromise of its capabilities, that would probably be felt by our friends and allies around the world, many of whom we would share some of the information that we would gain through these means. It's hard to quantify, but I would think that there would be an impact, yes.

Barbara?

Q: Can you go back to the notion of detainees and place that into a little military perspective for us? Since the Cold War, essentially, how unusual or unique is it for military personnel to be classified by the Pentagon as "detainees"? Has this happened in the past? Can you point to any examples?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I'd have to -- I'd have to do a comprehensive search over decades to give you a good answer to your question.

Q: Well, let me try it this way. Do you feel that this is an extraordinary circumstance?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't know of any other circumstance where a Navy EP-3 has landed on Hainan Island and 24 air crew have been detained by the Chinese.

Yes.

Q: Admiral, you talked about just now the intelligence-sharing arrangements we have with friends and allies and how these might be compromised by the capture of -- by the detainment of this aircraft. We also have intelligence-sharing arrangements with the Chinese having to do with listening posts in Western China. I'm wondering if you could talk about whether or not those intelligence-sharing arrangements have been compromised in any way by this, whether or not they are continuing, whether or not there has been an impact on that particular arrangement?

ADM. QUIGLEY: In addition to the agreements that we have with the NATO allies to share a variety of information, we also have a variety of bilateral agreements with a lot of nations around the world, none of which I will discuss.

Yes.

Q: At the State Department today it was announced that Secretary Powell had asked employees not to attend, I guess, the party for the incoming Chinese ambassador, indicating that he didn't think it would be appropriate to send that signal. Has the Pentagon put forward any other edicts canceling any mil-to-mil contacts or any other meetings with Chinese officials that are upcoming or in the near future?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No. We have not, but I mean, I think I was asked this the other day. We simply have no substantive mil-to-mil exchanges scheduled for the month of April, and then there are none past May while we do a review of the mil-to-mil programs. So it just coincidentally does not have a near-term impact.

Q: Craig, if somebody --

ADM. QUIGLEY: Can I interrupt for one second? Somebody asked before on where the USS Kitty Hawk is located. She is at sea in the South China Sea.

Q: On a related question to that, I thought there was a session scheduled for late April, in San Francisco, of this Maritime Commission?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't believe that that was scheduled until later in the year.

Q: Okay.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Yes.

Q: Change the subject?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Mmm-hmm.

Q: Okay. Can you just update us on the status of the recovering American personnel out in Vietnam?

ADM. QUIGLEY: In Vietnam, yeah. We have recovered the remains of all seven. They are still in Vietnam. Family notification is complete, and I believe their parent services released the names of all seven of them yesterday. Tentative plans have the remains to be returned to a full-honors ceremony in Hawaii on Friday -- this Friday, the 13th. I don't have the specifics on that yet. The Pacific Command is still working the details, but that is their intention at this point.

After the arrival ceremony in Hawaii, the remains will be transferred to the Army's lab there in Hawaii to do more detailed work on the remains, and preparing the remains. Ultimately, in the next several days after that, they would contact the families and then make arrangements to have the remains shipped to the families for funeral arrangements.

Q: Just to add on to that too. Being that Monday is Patriot's Day, is there anything scheduled as far as ceremonies regarding this particular incident to add on to historic --

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, I think the intention at this point is to have the arrival ceremony on Friday -- this coming Friday -- as the remains arrive in Hawaii.

Yes, sir.

Q: Do we know yet why the Russian helicopter crashed?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, the Vietnamese have started an investigation into that. I understand they have promised to share the information that they learn as to the cause of the crash. But this was the 65th recovery mission, many of which have used that airframe, that MI-17 helicopter, over the months and years since we've had this program ongoing. But we do not know the cause; was it mechanical, was it weather, what was it? We do not know that yet. We'll eventually learn, but not yet.

Q: If I can go back to China for a second. Does the Pentagon have any reaction to Jesse Jackson's offer to help mediate this stand- off with China right now?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, we're not the mediators. I would defer to the State Department on that.

Charlie?

Q: Just back to China a moment. I know that you said you're not going to talk about the precise circumstances of what happened in this accident, but in the larger sense, I mean, in terms of determining who's at fault, does it really matter which plane moved to where, or is this a clear case where the U.S. plane has the right of way?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, again, I don't think I can give you a good answer to that until we understand what the geometry was in this particular instance, what was the maneuvering details of each aircraft. And we just don't understand that yet. I mean, it says that maybe, as we have proposed, there's a need to sit down and discuss the details of maneuvering parameters in international airspace of this sort, but we just can't find a good answer to that yet without having a little bit more understanding of the details of this one.

Q: Immediately after the incident, Admiral Blair indicated that the U.S. plane had the right of way because it's the responsibility of the smaller, more maneuverable jets to move out of the way. Are you backing away or softening that a little bit?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Generally that's true. If you have a -- I'll make a seaborne analogy. If I have a super-tanker in a limited maneuvering circumstance in a narrow channel or something, and I have small pleasure craft motorboats that can maneuver quite easily, generally speaking, the ship that is less able to maneuver is obliged to maintain its course and speed, and the smaller vessels try very hard to stay out of its way and not put it in an awkward situation. Generally speaking, that's true in the air as well. But again, we don't know the details here, and I think that's important that we know that before we make a more particular announcement.

Q: Well, generally --

ADM. QUIGLEY: Generally speaking, that is the correct --

Q: Generally speaking, without referring to this specific incident, because I know you said you weren't going to confirm details, but generally speaking, can you explain why a plane in this kind of a mission might be flying on autopilot as opposed to the pilots having manual control of the plane?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, the use of an autopilot is the decision of a pilot to engage that. Many models of aircraft have autopilots, particularly those that are on long legs of a flight plan where no particular maneuvering is required; commercial airliners, cargo carriers, things of that sort, where you're out over hundreds of miles over open water or land and you need to maintain a relatively constant heading and altitude and airspeed; in planes of this type, where you have a long leg maritime patrol and surveillance airplane, where you stay on a similar course and speed for an extended period of time. This plane is equipped with an autopilot for that very reason.

Now whether it was engaged, we'll see.

Q: Admiral, in light of the fact that we're now in our second week of this incident, that the crew continues to be questioned, that the crew is not being allowed outdoors, does Secretary Rumsfeld stand by his expression of gratitude last week over how well the crew is being treated?

ADM. QUIGLEY: That's still true, John. I mean, by all accounts from -- I've heard from General Sealock that the crew is in very decent quarters. They are being fed very well. Their personal needs are being taken care of. They have done laundry. There's an exchange of e-mails, reading material. English language television stations, I believe -- they have reception in the rooms they're being kept -- on the other hand, we'd like to see them released right away. And -- but if -- as long as they are detained, we're appreciative of the fact that the Chinese are taking good care of them.

Q: What does "exchange of e-mails" mean? Does it mean that they access to a computer, or that the military attach‚ just brings them printouts of --

ADM. QUIGLEY: Yes.

Q: -- and then he takes their replies?

ADM. QUIGLEY: The materials, whatever they might be, Chris, whether it's toiletry items or e-mails, things of -- reading material, magazines, things of that sort, are generally purchased or somehow gotten by General Sealock. He will then turn those over to the Chinese officials, and then they turn them over to the 24-crew members. That's the process that takes place.

So there's no direct access to e-mail as you would think of, as sitting at a PC or something --

Q: But they will answer back --

ADM. QUIGLEY: -- but rather it's a printout, a paper printout, of e-mails.

Q: Can they answer the e-mails back?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, it's not -- I don't think it's going back, Pam, via e-mail. I think it's going back via a different path.

They'll get an e-mail. If there's a question or a comment they wish to make back to their family member or squadron mate or what have you, they would pass that again back through the Chinese to General Sealock. How he's then communicating that answer back, I don't know the path that is taking. But we're trying to facilitate two-way conversation here.

Jamie?

Q: Craig, the space imaging satellite photograph of yesterday -- it shows a line of seven vehicles that appear to be trucks parked along the plane. What do you make of that?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I would agree with your assessment. (Laughter.)

Q: But you don't interpret that as meaning anything particular?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I can't answer your question, Jamie -- I'm sorry -- what the motivation would have been to park that many vehicles so closely together at that particular spot, I don't know.

Q: And in that photograph, a little farther south at the airstrip, there was a pair of Chinese planes. Any idea what kind of planes those are? Can you identify them for us?

ADM. QUIGLEY: That I have not seen. That I have not seen.

Q: Okay.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Show me the image when we're done, I'll take a look.

Q: All right.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Pam?

Q: Back on this gratitude thing; don't we expect them to be well treated? Why are we so grateful for it?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I think we would hope that they would be well treated. Again, kind of going back to Barbara's question, this a unique circumstance, and I don't think we have an expectation because there hasn't been a similar circumstance that preceded it over the years. We are appreciative of the good treatment that the crew is receiving. We would also be appreciative of their immediate release.

Q: Are you appreciative of the fact that they're being questioned by the Chinese?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No. That was not the question, it was how they're being treated and cared for and the quarters they're staying in and the food they're eating, and that we're very appreciative.

Q: But the questioning is also part of the way they're being treated, and I'm wondering how -- what the official view from here is regarding the questioning.

ADM. QUIGLEY: I have not heard an official view. I think it's an odd question. What we -- what we --

Q: I mean, is it proper treatment?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I know of no legal strictures that would stop them from questioning the crew.

Q: So it's the position of the Pentagon that there is no problem with the crew being questioned by the Chinese?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Within the parameters that we would expect of them to comply with their training, and about classified details of the equipment and the mission, and things of that sort, they need to stay to areas that they are comfortable in discussing. And they know -- just like any military person does who deals with classified information, they know where those lines are drawn.

Q: And repeated questioning doesn't raise psychological concerns?

ADM. QUIGLEY: It's not apparent in General Sealock's meetings with them that have taken place so far, no. He describes their spirits as very, very high, and good health and well taken care of.

Q: So is the Pentagon encouraging them to cooperate, other than not providing or divulging classified information?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't believe we have provided any instructions to them one way or the other, John. We expect their training and their good commonsense and judgment to be the governing factors here.

Q: Have you asked -- have you formally asked the Chinese to stop the regular questioning?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Not that I am aware of. You perhaps would ask the State Department, but not that I am aware of.

Q: Has the general given them any instructions on how they should or should not cooperate?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: They're just on their own, to figure this out by themselves?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Mm-hm.

Pam.

Q: What would you say to the families that might be watching this briefing that probably don't share the sense of gratitude that the Pentagon has for how well their families are being treated, considering that they haven't been in phone contact, they haven't been in e-mail contact, they've been gone for 10 days, and nobody really knows if the messages are getting through or getting back or what they're intended to be. And also, that they haven't been allowed out and that whenever they walk around, it's under armed guards?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I would have several messages to the families. First and foremost, the most important message is the one that goes from General Sealock to the parent service and from the services to the unit to the families that are getting their direct messages from the parent squadron there at Whitby Island in Washington. They are in nearly continuous communication with the families, passing on all the details they can from every conversation that General Sealock has with them, as well as his impressions of their spirits, their health, the conditions under which they're living, and all, I think, are very encouraging to the families.

That's not as good as having your loved one right there with you, of course, and are they concerned? Are they anxious? Of course they are. But the message to the families is, You've got the best efforts of the United States government underway to try to bring about the soonest release of their loved ones and get them back home.

Q: And there continues to be a sense here that we need to just modulate what everybody's saying and let the diplomatic process play out? Because again, I'm struck by the fact that -- I mean, these are 24 of your own -- that you're not outraged about this. But everything that we know officially is very -- we're very grateful and we're very happy that everybody's -- What! These are 24 prisoners!

ADM. QUIGLEY: Diplomacy -- well, I don't agree with your term.

Q: Twenty-four detainees!

ADM. QUIGLEY: Diplomacy, as the president said yesterday, can be a slow process, but that is the way ahead. There is not a military solution to this, it is a diplomatic solution. That process is underway. It will continue until we get to a successful resolution.

Q: You know, you mentioned early on some discussions or leaks by some Pentagon officials. Do you have the feeling that there is some irritation or impatience by some top officers that would like some more action, and they have to accept the diplomatic solution?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I think that the individuals, that go without being named, are trying in their own way to help. I'm not sure that their efforts are actually helpful, but I believe that they believe that they are. That's the best I can describe.

Q: Admiral?

ADM. QUIGLEY: John?

Q: The president has raised several times the possibility of harm being done to Sino-U.S. relations the longer this goes on. The Pentagon has been interested in trying to revive, resuscitate military-to-military relations with the PLA. The longer this goes on, is there a chance that those efforts could be harmed; that there's going to be damage to whatever efforts have been underway to reconnect the two militaries?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I would make no prediction as to where we'll come down on that when the review is done. Someone did ask before, I don't remember who it was -- Chris, I think -- on whether the MMCA working group is scheduled to meet.

They are scheduled to meet at the end of April, as we speak at least.

Q: Is there an agenda?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Pardon?

Q: An agenda for that meeting?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Not that I have seen yet.

Q: Is the location San Francisco?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't -- see if we can find that -- San Francisco, yes.

Q: Is Secretary Rumsfeld speaking directly with General Sealock, or is that information going to the State Department?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Going to the State Department. I believe there are folks that receive the messages -- the readouts of his conversations here within the Pentagon as well. I don't believe Secretary Rumsfeld has spoken to General Sealock directly [Secretary Rumsfeld did have a telephone conversation with General Sealock this morning].

Q: I have a different subject. Was Secretary Rumsfeld briefed on the V-22 report? And if so, what was his response to the -- the reading of it was very interesting and sort of damning. It said testing had been rushed to keep to a schedule. It said that the part in this crash that broke had not been tested. Has he responded to that or looked at it yet?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't think we're looking for a response from the secretary of Defense. This was an accident investigation that was completed by the Marine Corps and released by the Marine Corps. Its findings are its findings.

Q: I'm intrigued by the fact that Kitty Hawk is in the South China Sea. Is there anything to read into that, I mean, during this standoff in particular?

ADM. QUIGLEY: No, you'll find ships frequently at sea in the South China Sea.

Q: What is her plan?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I'm not going to get into her plan.

Q: She's not going --

ADM. QUIGLEY: I would not read anything threatening into her movements in the South China Sea.

Q: She entered it, maybe 24 hours ago, or the last day or two --

ADM. QUIGLEY: I believe she left a port visit, and she has to eventually leave the port visit and move on to another part of the ocean to do other business.

Q: So that's what it is, she's moving from one point to another through the South China Sea? Where is she headed?

ADM. QUIGLEY: I don't know if I have that. I'll see if I can find out.

Q: From where is she coming?

ADM. QUIGLEY: A port visit, I believe, in Thailand.

Q: If -- I know you are not the State Department -- if there was a break, would you -- do you have the feeling that the Chinese are aware of the religious importance of Easter for the United States?

ADM. QUIGLEY: Oh, I'm sure they are. I'm sure they are.

Q: And they could --

ADM. QUIGLEY: Well, again, we're hopeful; sooner is better. Today would be great to arrange for the release.

Thank you all.

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