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Let Them Eat Tape

On the eve of talks in Beijing over the recent collision of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese jet, the Pentagon Tuesday released new videotapes which it said prove that Chinese fighters have routinely harassed American reconnaissance planes.

The Pentagon last week showed a video of one such encounter, which it claimed involved Wang Wei, the pilot who collided with a Navy EP-3E spy plane on April 1.

The Navy plane made an emergency landing in China and the 24-member crew was released 11 days later after intense negotiations. Wang ejected but is presumed dead.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon showed videos of three more mid-air encounters taped since December showing Chinese jets closing to within feet of US airplanes, reports CBS News Transportation Correspondent Bob Orr.

In one incident, Wang is clearly seen gesturing emphatically, so close that American crewmen could read his email address on a sheet of paper.

U.S. military officials say these aggressive and dangerous intercepts led to the April 1 accident and must stop.

"They have every right to come out and check us out and see what we're doing. We're in international airspace. That's fine," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman. "The issue is the overly aggressive flying."

The crew returned after the U.S. said in a letter to China that it was "very sorry" for Wang's death, but did not apologize. Wednesday's meeting was scheduled as part of the diplomatic negotiations that led to their release.

The number-one priority for U.S. negotiators at the Beijing talks is the return of the U.S. surveillance plane, which still sits on a tarmac on Hainan Island.

"We want our airplane back and we're going to make that point and we expect to get a response," said Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman.


Click here to learn more about the collision.

The Navy wants to send in a team of engineers to see if it can be repaired — and to see what is left of its sophisticated eavesdropping gear.

However, as the American delegation arrived in Beijing, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Peter Verga wouldn't discuss the agenda for talks, saying only that they will "meet with the Chinese government and exchange information" about the plane.

The mood of the talks is expected to be tense. Both sides are dominated by military officials, and each is likely to cast blame on the other for the collision.

CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports Pentagon officials plan to show the videos at the meeting because they believe China's leaders may not realize just how close their pilots were coming to American plaes.

Last December, when the U.S. protested the close encounters, the Chinese responded that their planes were coming no closer than 1,000 feet. Now, the U.S. can produce pictures that apparently contradict that contention.

At the Beijing meeting, China is expected to bring up the subject of American spy flights, and is likely to ask that the flights be moved farther off its coast or stopped altogether, the Washington Post quoted a Defense Department official as saying.

The United States plans to respond that it intends to continue the flights, he told the paper.

However, no flights are scheduled before Wednesday's meeting. The Post said the flights may resume as early as Thursday in international airspace about 50 miles off the Chinese coast.

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