US technicians in China for talks on dismantling spy plane

Friday, June 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ U.S. technicians were expecting to talk to Chinese officials this weekend about how to transport home a damaged Navy spy plane so it can be repaired and flown again, the U.S. Embassy said Friday.

The four technicians arrived in Beijing late Thursday, following a tentative deal announced earlier in the week to dismantle the EP-3E and fly it home aboard a giant Russian-designed cargo aircraft.

Talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials this weekend were expected to examine how ``to safely and efficiently recover the EP-3 airplane in a reusable condition,'' said a U.S. Embassy spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

The spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet on April 1 and made an emergency landing at a military air base on China's southern island of Hainan. It has been sitting there ever since and Chinese experts are believed to have removed its sophisticated eavesdropping equipment for study.

The collision and China's 11-day detention of the U.S. plane's 24 crew members soured relations between Beijing and Washington.

Flying the plane home aboard an AN-124 transport craft is expected to involve dismantling its wings and tail. U.S. officials had wanted to repair the spy plane and fly it off Hainan, but China has ruled out that option.