EP-3 crew detained in China is to be released

The US air crew detained in China is to be released, Chinese state media has said. A statement read on television and radio said the crew would be able to go after what it called "necessary formalities" had been completed. The 24 crew members have been detained on the island of Hainan since their plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided 11 days ago. The Chinese state news agency reported that their release followed the delivery of a letter to the Chinese foreign ministry from the American ambassador, in which the US Government said it was "very sorry" about the incident. On Wednesday, there were increasing signs that both sides in the dispute appeared to be edging towards resolution. US State Department officials said that in a draft document offered to Beijing, the US expressed regret for landing on Chinese soil without permission, BBC reports. Meanwhile, China's state-run media began reporting comments made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell three days ago, in which he expressed sorrow for last week's collision. The Chinese news agency, Xinhua, reported that the US letter read: "Both President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have expressed their sincere regret over your missing pilot and aircraft. "Please convey to the Chinese people and to the family of pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss," the letter said, according to Xinhua. The apology added that the Washington was sorry that the plane entered China's airspace and landing without a verbal clearance.

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