WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon plans to dismantle the damaged Navy spy plane into three or four large pieces, fly it home from China in one or two giant cargo plans and then put it back together.
"We're glad to get the airplane back in a condition that it can be repaired and used again," Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said Tuesday. "It's an $80 million airplane that is perfectly repairable and flyable and fit to be used again."
The Pentagon spokesman said the plane probably will be taken to a repair facility of Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane's manufacturer.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, confirmed that China has refused to allow a U.S. Navy ship to visit Hong Kong.
Quigley said the United States requested permission for the USS Inchon, a mine countermeasures ship, to make a port call at Hong Kong from June 28 to July 3. He said China rejected the request May 15 without explanation.
The Pentagon had hoped to repair the Navy EP-3E Aries II spy plane at the Lingshui air base on Hainan Island, where it made an emergency landing April 1 after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet, and then to fly it off the island. China vetoed that idea and initially insisted that it be hauled off in such small pieces that it would have been condemned to the scrap heap instead of returning to duty.
"That would have been a shame," Quigley said.
China's refusal to allow the spy plane to fly home under its own power was based on political rather than technical considerations, officials in Beijing said Tuesday.
"We have explained the Chinese reason. It's not a technical issue, it has to do with the nature of this plane and how and where it landed," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.
China has maintained that the American plane caused the collision over the South China Sea, then violated Chinese sovereignty by making an unauthorized emergency landing at Lingshui air base on Hainan. China strenuously objects to U.S. surveillance flights off its coast in international airspace.
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