China seeks to explain spy plane defiance

China has sought US understanding for its refusal to allow a damaged US Navy spy plane to fly home.

China has sought US understanding for its refusal to allow a damaged US Navy spy plane to fly home.

It said public sentiment would be outraged if the aircraft flew again over Chinese territory.

Deputy Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said the Chinese public was outraged by the resumption of US surveillance flights near China.

US suggestions the spy plane be flown back from the Chinese military base where it landed after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet on April 1 had had the same effect, Li said.

Although Li cited public opposition, Beijing may be punishing Washington for resuming reconnaissance missions by making Washington chop up its plane and spend extra money and time shipping it home.

"If we allow such a military plane which had a mission of spying on China to be flown back from a Chinese military airfield, that would further hurt the dignity and sentiments of the Chinese people," said Li. It would be "the cause of strong indignation and opposition from the Chinese people".

Beijing hopes the US will take a "pragmatic and reasonable attitude" and negotiate the return of the damaged spy plane, "maybe by boat, for example", he said in an interview.

Li, a former Chinese ambassador to the United States, said Beijing was intent on seeking co-operation and friendship with Americans for the "sake of our common interests".

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