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Chinese No Longer Harass US Spy Flights - Powell - 2001-07-29

Secretary of State Colin Powell says Chinese pilots have stopped harassing U.S. surveillance flights along China's coast. He told reporters, while flying from China to Australia, that Chinese leaders want to improve relations with the United States.

While Mr. Powell was in Beijing, the two sides agreed to convene a meeting next month of a standing commission that seeks to avoid incidents between the their militaries.

During his flight to Australia, the Secretary said China is already showing caution. He said China is avoiding the kind of aggressive flight intercepts off its coast that led to the April 1st collision of a Chinese fighter and a U.S. Navy spy plane that led to a crisis in bilateral relations.

Mr. Powell told reporters the United States had asked China to use proper rules in aerial encounters with the U.S. planes. He said that in the three months since the flights resumed, American crews have seen no repeat of the close approaches by youthful Chinese pilots that produced the April collision.

"We have gone back to normal procedures where [the Chinese planes] stay away. Do not put these 20-year-old in a position where something can happen. These [pilots] are young people, and they are good," he said. "But let us not press the envelope that way again. And so far, since we resumed reconnaissance flights, we have not seen anything like the kinds of things we had been seeing before. So we're seeing [good] behavior," said Secretary Powell.

Mr. Powell, who met President Ziang Zemin and other top officials Saturday, said he thinks the Chinese leadership is "very anxious" to put relations, that have also been strained by human rights cases, back on track. He said they also conveyed a strong message that the Taiwan issue should not be allowed to spin out of control.

The Secretary of State arrived in Canberra late Sunday to join Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for consultations with their Australian counterparts to mark the 50th anniversary of the two countries' defense alliance.

The Australian government has expressed concern over the U.S. decision last week to reject a draft accord on enforcement of the international treaty banning production of germ warfare agents.

But in his airborne news conference, Mr. Powell insisted U.S. relations with the Canberra government are sound, and he said the fact the administration has also distanced itself from other treaties does not mean it is following a "unilateralist" foreign policy.

Australia is the final stop on an Asia trip by Mr. Powell that took him to China, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea.