Following is the text of a letter formed by Chinese and American diplomats after days of intense negotiation to find a wording that would please both sides.

Dear Mr. Minister,

      On behalf of the United States Government, I now outline steps to resolve this issue.
      Both President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have expressed their sincere regret over your missing pilot and aircraft. Please convey to the Chinese people and to the family of the pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss.
      Although the full picture of what transpired is still unclear, according to our information, our severely crippled aircraft made an emergency landing after following international emergency procedures. We are very sorry the entering of China's airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance, but very pleased the crew landed safely. We appreciate China's efforts to see to the well-being of our crew.
      In view of the tragic incident and based on my discussions with your representative, we have agreed to the following actions:
      Both sides agree to hold a meeting to discuss the incident. My government understands and expects that our aircrew will be permitted to depart China as soon as possible.
      The meeting would start April 18, 2001.
      The meeting agenda would include discussion of the cause of the incident, possible recommendations whereby such collisions could be avoided in the future, development of a plan for prompt return of the EP-3 aircraft, and other related issues. We acknowledge your government's intention to raise U.S. reconnaissance missions near China in the meeting.


           Joseph W. Prueher

The interesting thing about the wording of this letter is the Chinese spin on it. The U.S. used the terms wan xi and feichang baoqian in their Chinese translation of the letter, which both involve sorrow and regret, without being the ultimate apology. They expressed regret, but didn't take blame for the collision. The translation the Chinese government released to the public used the term shenbiao qianyi, the formal term they had been calling for from the beginning, which does carry the weight of responsibility for the accident.

The press has likened this to President Nixon's agreement with China over Taiwan. The U.S. "acknowledged" China and Taiwan as a single entity, but the Chinese spin said that the U.S. "accepted" the relationship.

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