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In the United States today Americans are celebrating the return of the aircrew from China President Bush is being widely praised for his deft handling of the hostage crisis In China today the government-run media are celebrating a great victory over the American superpower Chinese leaders are being praised for extracting an apology from the United States for its aggressive invasion of Chinese territory Who is right to celebrate Comforting as it would be to believe otherwise the Chinese see more clearly than we do that -- so far -- they have won and we have lost First make no mistake The United States has apologized And the fact of our apology is all the more humiliating because the United States was in no way to blame for the incident An American surveillance plane flying in international airspace was bumped by a Chinese fighter and forced to make an emergency landing in Chinese territory The Chinese pilot some say was reckless Maybe so But the pilot was only carrying out his governments specific orders to recklessly harass American aircraft flying over the South China Sea which Beijing wants to claim as Chinese territory and from which the Chinese military wants the United States excluded For months the Chinese have been directing their pilots to fly closer to American surveillance planes And for months they have ignored repeated US warnings about the dangers of this new aggressive policy And so the collision was not as American officials insist a tragic accident for which no one was to blame It was the direct consequence of a deliberate Chinese policy to increase the risks to American pilots and crew -- and to their own -- in order to achieve a military objective Confronted by this direct and deliberate challenge the United States has apologized We have not only expressed regret and sorrow for the loss of the
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