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China Calls Off Search for Jet Pilot Hailed as 'Revolutionary Martyr'

April 15, 2001|From Associated Press

BEIJING — China, abandoning its search for a pilot missing since his fighter jet collided with a U.S. spy plane two weeks ago, hailed him as a national hero Saturday and condemned the United States for making "irresponsible comments" about the accident.

The search for Lt. Cmdr. Wang Wei, who disappeared after his plane plunged into the sea following the April 1 collision, was called off at 6 p.m. Saturday, the state-run New China News Agency reported. "Analysis of the situation from every angle indicated there was no chance he could have survived," it said.

On Saturday, China's navy--which had launched its largest-ever search to find the pilot--formally declared Wang a "revolutionary martyr." State media had been lionizing him as a hero for national defense.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials again insisted that the U.S. spy plane caused Wang to crash by veering toward his jet.

"We have enough evidence to prove that it was the U.S. plane that violated flight rules by suddenly veering in a wide angle at the Chinese plane in normal flight, rammed into and damaged it, resulting in the loss of the Chinese pilot," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said in a statement read on state-run television Saturday evening.

American officials, in the days since the release of the 24 crew members of the spy plane held after the collision, have said the U.S. aircraft was flying straight and level when it was struck by the Chinese jet.

Zhang said senior U.S. officials "continued to confuse right and wrong and even falsely accuse the Chinese side in irresponsible comments made . . . by high-ranking members of the U.S. administration in the last few days, in an attempt to shirk its responsibility."

Other than the strongly worded statement, little mention was made in China's media Saturday of the incident that had so inflamed Sino-U.S. tensions.

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