China says video shows US plane caused crash

By Paul Eckert

Beijing - China showed video footage and photographs on Thursday of what it called "very convincing" proof that the United States spy plane was to blame for the mid-air collision at the heart of a diplomatic standoff.

In a tit-for-tat reply to United States' images and comments blaming China for the April 1 collision, the foreign ministry showed photographs of the damaged US EP-3 plane, an animated simulation and a video of an encounter between Chinese and US fighters.

"China has large quantities of evidence, of which this is just a small portion," said foreign ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue after Chinese and US negotiatiors wrapped up two days of inconclusive talks about the incident.

She said the evidence was shown to a US negotiating team during five hours of talks on Wednesday and Thursday at which Beijing repeated its demand that Washington stop surveillance flights near its coastal waters.

The US team said the talks were "very productive", but made no further comment.

Zhang showed three photographs of the damaged EP-3 that China is still holding on Hainan Island. The United States is demanding the return of the aircraft.

Zhang said damage to the wing flaps, propeller and front of the EP-3 fuselage all supported China's claim, first made within hours of the April 1 collision, that the US spy plane made a "sharp leftward lurch" and hit the intercepting Chinese fighter.

She also presented an animation, which is vigorously contested by the United States, depicting China's version of the crash.

After the collision, the US plane made an emergency landing on Hainan island, where its 24-strong crew was detained for 11 days.

They were freed after Washington said it was "very sorry" for the Chinese pilot's death and for the crippled EP-3 landing on Chinese territory without permission.

The Chinese jet plunged into the South China Sea and its pilot, Wang Wei, was never recovered despite a two-week search.

Zhang also showed a short video clip of what she said was the interception by three Chinese fighters of a US fighter last year over waters near China's coast.

It was taken by a Chinese fighter pilot and showed a US aviator in an F-14 Tomcat taking photographs of a second Chinese fighter in what Zhang said was evidence the US plane made dangerous moves.

"The video and pictures I played are very convincing. They showed that the Chinese side had a lot of conclusive evidence to show that the responsibility of the collision lies on the US side," she said.

The United States said the crash was caused when Wang flew his jet a dangerous 1m from the US spy plane, lost control, and careened into the propeller and nose cone of the US aircraft, which its crew said was on autopilot.

Western military analysts said it was unlikely the lumbering EP-3 turboprop could have made the sharp turn China had described and improbable it could have hit the more nimble and faster Chinese jet.

The United States, which accuses Wang of dangerous flying in previous interceptions of American spy planes, released video footage from earlier this year showing him making harrowingly close passes in front to a US surveillance plane.

It also issued a photograph of Wang holding up a piece of paper with his e-mail address written on it as he flew past.

Zhang dismissed as "irresponsible remarks" US assertions that China was at fault for the crash and repeated Beijing's demand that the United States stop surveillance flights near China's coast.

"The fundamental cause of this incident is that the United States frequently sends surveillance planes into waters near China's coast," she said.

"To prevent a recurrence of such incidents, the US must halt such surveillance flights," said Zhang.

The United States has ruled out stopping the flights, saying they take place over international waters and are legal. - Reuters

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