Vice President Richard Cheney was interviewed by ABCNEWS' Cokie Roberts for This Week on Sunday, April 8. The following is the complete, unedited transcript of their conversation.
COKIE ROBERTS: Mr. Vice President, thank you for joining us.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Good morning.
ROBERTS: Anything new on the situation in China?
CHENEY: No. Our diplomatic efforts continue. We are engaged, I would say, in intense diplomatic activity on the issue with respect to the EP-3 in China, but there is nothing new to announce at this point.
ROBERTS: Now, as of Friday, we were getting reports from the White House that a deal was expected momentarily over the weekend before this morning. What happened? You are not anticipating the military response to China?
CHENEY: I don't — I don't know that anybody — there may have speculation on the part of staff people, but we are making progress. But it is complex a diplomatic negotiation. I don't think it should be — I wouldn't want to characterize it in any fashion, the fact that it is not resolved yet. I expect it will be resolved. I think it is important that it get resolved. The longer this goes on without resolution, clearly the more difficult it becomes to manage the relationship and avoid risk to the long-term relationship with China, but we are making progress, and we are continuing to work on the problem.
ROBERTS: I want to get to that long-term relationship, but, first, we have had some statements over the weekend. Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the International Relations Commission, has referred to the crew members as "hostages." Are they hostages?
ROBERTS: Why not?
CHENEY: Well, because we have access to them, because they are being treated very well, because we expect they will be released shortly.
ROBERTS: Well, let me show you the definition of "hostage" according to the U.N. Convention on Hostage-Taking: "Any person who seizes or detains and threatens to kill, to injure, or continue to detain another person in order to compel a third party" — by which they mean a state — "to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition of their release commits the offense of taking the hostage." Now, the Chinese government is asking for an apology. That is a condition of release. And the Liberation Army is saying no more surveillance flights as a condition of release.
CHENEY: First of all, the plane and the crew are in China because of the accident that occurred in international air space. We had every right to be in international air space, and that is really not at issue here from our standpoint. We had no choice — the crew had no choice, but to land on Chinese territory at an air base, because of the damage to the aircraft. The question now is resolving the matter in an effective fashion so that we can get on with our business so that the crew will be returned. I think that is very different from the situation in which somebody forcibly acquires, obtains, and holds people.
ROBERTS: But they are being detained against their will.