Flying out spy plane would be an insult, Chinese official says


HONG KONG - A senior Chinese official sought yesterday to explain China's decision not to allow the United States to fly home its damaged surveillance plane, which is stranded on Hainan island, saying it would arouse "strong indignation and opposition in the Chinese population."

The official, Deputy Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, said in an interview, "If we allow such a military plane, which had a mission of spying on China, to be flown back out of China, that will further hurt the dignity and sentiments of the Chinese people."

Li said the Chinese government would consider other alternatives for removing the plane, such as putting it on a ship.

He said he hoped the United States would take a "diplomatic and reasonable" attitude in the negotiations for the plane's release, which are continuing.

Beijing was surprised that the U.S. military had resumed surveillance flights off the coast of China, Li said.

But he did not say that would hamper talks over the return of the plane.

"We hope that the two countries will properly handle the incident without letting it further damage relations," Li said.

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