Spy plane situation should be viewed in larger context

--Times Union, Albany, N.Y. April 4

Posted: Thursday, April 05, 2001

The collision of a U.S. spy plane and a Chi-nese fighter jet has strained relations between Washington and Beijing on a scale not seen since U.S. cruise missiles accidentally targeted the Chinese Embassy during the war in Kosovo. Once again, it appears that the incident was caused by error rather than hostile intent, although Beijing insists the U.S. plane bears sole responsibility for the encounter. And once again, diplomatic skills are being tested to the limit in an effort to forge a resolution acceptable to both sides. ...

President Bush is not likely to be so solicitous of the mainland, nor should he be. He has a right to expect Beijing to honor the international code that applies in such instances -- namely, that the 24 members of the American crew be returned home safely, and that American technicians be allowed to repair the damaged spy plane and fly it back to its home base. ...

Instead, Beijing continues to abuse human rights at home and, more recently, has detained a U.S.-based Chinese scholar on charges of spying.

The spy plane incident comes at a time when Beijing can exploit it in hopes of stalling, or even preventing, a pending U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. Indeed, every step the Chinese take in this crisis should be viewed in that larger context. As for President Bush, he is now facing the first major international incident of his young administration. He needs to move decisively, but not recklessly, toward a speedy resolution.

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