Spy plane talks with China reach deadlock

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The Independent Online

United States negotiators threatened to call off further talks with Beijing yesterday as the sides failed to resolve differences on the fate of the American spy plane or future surveillance flights close to Chinese territory.

United States negotiators threatened to call off further talks with Beijing yesterday as the sides failed to resolve differences on the fate of the American spy plane or future surveillance flights close to Chinese territory.

Both sides began the talks in Beijing standing firmly behind their conflicting accounts of the collision. Washington blames the Chinese fighter pilot Wang Wei for excessive bravado in buzzing and finally crashing into the spy plane. Beijing hails Wang as a "revolutionary martyr". His body and plane remain missing.

"The so-called evidence and comments the US side has issued in recent days do not hold water," said Lu Shumin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official. Lu also repeated Beijing's demand that the US stop all surveillance flights off the Chinese coast. A further session of talks ought to begin today.

Washington is unlikely to compromise on future flights in international airspace close to China, amid speculation that the Pentagon is considering whether to send jet fighters to shadow its spy planes.

Diplomacy is further complicated by President Bush's imminent decision on which military hardware the US will sell to Taiwan.

* China beat back an American attempt to hold it accountable to the UN for human rights abuses yesterday after it amassed voting support from African countries.

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