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China Allows US to Search for Crew of Spy Plane Shot Down in 1952 - 2002-07-09

China says a U.S. Department of Defense team will arrive next week to search for the remains of two American who were shot down on a spy mission in 1952.

The United States appears to want to recover the remains of two pilots who disappeared on a spying mission during the Cold War. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says China gave permission for the mission to promote friendship with the United States. Beijing will allow American officials to inspect what he describes as scenes relevant to U.S. military personnel missing during the Cold War.

In particular, the U.S. team will be searching an area in Jilin province where it is thought China's military shot down a U.S. C-47 plane in 1952. Beijing says the remains of the plane's pilots, Robert Snoddy and Norman Schwartz, were buried at the crash site. But the Chinese warn that the exact location of the crash isn't known.

The two men, working on contract for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, were killed at the height of Cold War tensions between China and the United States, when the two countries were fighting on opposite sides in the Korean War. The plane was shot down on a mission to pick up a Chinese anti-Communist operative. Two American spies, also on the plane, survived the crash and were held prisoner by the Chinese for 20 years.

The United States has an official policy of trying to find, alive or dead, all its soldiers or other government agents who go missing in action during conflicts. In addition to searching in Indochina for troops missing since the Vietnam War, it hopes to determine the fate of about 8,000 soldiers who disappeared after being captured during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Some of those are thought to have been taken into China.