WASHINGTON – China's most senior military officer gave Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld new documentation Tuesday on the 1956 Chinese shootdown of a Navy pilot who was a friend of Rumsfeld's.
A senior defense official who participated in the meeting at the Pentagon said Gen. Guo Boxiong handed over archival material that included "a little bit more information" on the case involving Navy Lt. j.g. James B. Deane Jr. of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Rumsfeld and Deane were stationed together in Florida as young Navy pilots in 1954-55, and Rumsfeld has remained in touch with Deane's widow ever since. Last October during a visit to Beijing, Rumsfeld pressed for more information about what may have happened to Deane, whose remains were never recovered.
A second U.S. defense official said the material provided by Guo was a contemporary Chinese Air Force report on the shootdown in August 1956. The official said the report had yet to be translated, and he declined to discuss it in more detail because U.S. officials had yet to study it.
As described by the Chinese, the report is consistent with what they have said previously about the matter, namely, that Deane's plane was shot down, and the fate of he and 11 others aboard the Martin P4M-1Q Mercator was never resolved.
The remains of four crew members were recovered shortly after the shootdown -- two by the crew of a U.S. search vessel and two by China.
Both U.S. officials discussed the matter Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly.
Deane's widow, Beverly Deane Shaver, has done extensive research on the case and says she does not believe he died in the shootdown. "He was declared missing when I'm 99 percent certain he was not. He was alive," she said in an AP interview in May. She and Deane were married just three months before he was shot down.
A series of U.S. military intelligence reports in the weeks and months following the Deane shootdown said there may have been two survivors; one report written in 1957 said the two had been moved to the residence of a Chinese government official and that one of the survivors appeared to fit the description of Deane.
Guo, who is a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, ranks second only to Chairman Hu Jintao, who also is China's president. On Sunday, Hu met with President Bush at a G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
This is Guo's first visit to the United States.
The senior defense official said after Guo's meeting with Rumsfeld that they agreed in principle to continue expanding military-to-military contacts. They also agreed to continue planning a search-and-rescue exercise for later this year, focusing on ways the U.S. and Chinese navies can operate safely together.
U.S.-China military relations have been strained over a number of issues in recent years, including Rumsfeld's push for Beijing to be more open about its defense priorities, its military budget and its nuclear arsenal.
At a welcoming ceremony on the steps of the Pentagon, Guo, in his People's Liberation Army uniform, saluted Rumsfeld as they shook hands and briefly exchanged small talk with the aid of a Chinese interpreter. An Air Force band played each nation's anthem and the two men then went inside for a working luncheon.
After their talks, Rumsfeld was asked by a reporter if he and Guo had discussed the possibility of North Korea launching more missiles, following the barrage it test-fired on July 4. He declined to respond directly but said they had talked about the resolution passed on Saturday by the United Nations Security Council. The resolution imposed limited sanctions on North Korea and demanded that it suspend its ballistic missile program. Within minutes of the vote, North Korea rejected the resolution and vowed to launch more missiles.
U.S. officials have prevailed upon China to use its influence with North Korea to pull back on the missile program.
Guo made no public comments.
Military relations were ruptured in April 2001 after a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane collided in flight with a Chinese fighter jet. The Navy plane made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island. The Chinese pilot died and the U.S. crew of 24 was detained on Hainan for 11 days. China refused to allow U.S. officials to fix the Navy plane and fly it off the island; eventually it was shipped home in pieces.
Guo was in San Diego on Monday for a tour of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He is scheduled to address students at the National Defense University in Washington on Wednesday and visit the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on Thursday, Whitman said.