BEIJING – China and the United States took conflicting positions in the first day of talks about the Navy plane incident Wednesday, with no agreement in sight on the future of U.S. surveillance flights or the return of the U.S. aircraft.
U.S. officials say China privately promised a "straightforward approach," but Beijing's state-run media accused Washington of turning hostile in the first day of talks.
The talks were to continue Thursday, China's state-run media reported. The U.S. Embassy said Wednesday's talks lasted about three hours, but declined further comment.
The two sides laid out their positions, with Beijing still holding the U.S. side "entirely responsible" for the April 1 collision of an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea, state-run television reported.
China was pressing for an end to U.S. surveillance flights near its coast. The Bush administration has rejected that demand, saying it has the right to fly in international air space.
American officials want China to return the U.S. Navy EP-3E spy plane. The plane is believed to remain at the Hainan island air base where it made an emergency landing after the collision. Satellite photos indicate China is examining the $80 million aircraft's high-tech listening devices and other electronics.
The plane's 24-member crew was held for 11 days on Hainan island before being released. The talks are part of a settlement that prompted China to release the crew.
The United States and China have given conflicting accounts of the collision. Chinese officials accused the U.S. pilot of ramming the fighter, while Washington says the nimbler Chinese jet accidentally struck the larger American plane.
China released the U.S. fliers after Washington said it regretted the incident. Some Chinese were angry that the United States was not forced to make more concessions.
The U.S. said it was "very sorry" its plane had landed on Hainan without permission and that the pilot of the Chinese fighter had likely been killed, but American officials made it clear they were not apologizing for their role in the collision.
The Chinese fighter pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Wang Wei, is presumed dead after China's military on Saturday called off an intensive search.
Chinese leaders have praised Wang as a "revolutionary martyr" and "guardian of the air and sea." On Wednesday, leaders of the Communist Party Youth League presented a citation to Wang's widow, Ruan Guoqin, praising him as a selfless patriot and outstanding pilot who set an example for all Chinese youth.
Two Chinese men staged a brief protest after the Americans left the Foreign Ministry talks on Wednesday.
One man held up a model of the Chinese F-8 fighter jet involved in the crash. The other held up a piece of paper that said, "There's a limit to boasting; give arrogance a rest." Guards confiscated the paper but did not detain the men.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday that the Chinese government sent word "they intend to take a nonpolemical and straightforward approach."
"We look forward to that," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush told the American delegation to "ask tough questions about the manner in which they intercept flights" near China.
Since the release last week of the spy plane's crew, U.S. officials have questioned China's version of events and criticized its handling of the incident.
The tougher line angered many in Beijing. A front-page editorial in the main Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, mocked the change in Bush's tone, which it said began "as soon as he learned the American crew members had touched down in Honolulu."
Military officials dominate the eight-member American team, which is headed by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Peter F. Verga. Six members are military officers or Defense Department officials, the U.S. Embassy said.
The team includes an expert on the EP-3E and Army Brig. Gen. Neal Sealock, the U.S. Embassy military attache. Sealock was the chief contact for the spy plane crew members during their captivity.
They met with a delegation led by Lu Shimin, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's North American and Oceanic Affairs Department, and military officials.