Saturday, December 17, 2016


US, China reach agreement on return of US underwater drone

US, China reach agreement on return of US underwater drone

The US said it has reached an agreement with China on Saturday on the return of a US Navy underwater drone that raised tensions when it was seized by the Chinese earlier this week.

"We have registered our objection to China's unlawful seizure of a US unmanned underwater vehicle operating in international waters in the South China Sea," spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

"Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the [vehicle] to the United States."

The Pentagon did not provide details about what the agreement entailed.

The Chinese Defence Ministry said it had agreed to hand over the craft "in an appropriate manner," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Spokesman Yang Yujun said the drone had been seized out of safety concerns and examined in a "professional and responsible manner."

The Chinese had harsh words for the United States, saying its "unilateral move to dramatize the issue in the process is inappropriate, and not conductive to its settlement."

"China resolutely opposes [US surveillance activities], and demands that the US side should stop such activities. China will continue to be vigilant against the relevant activities on the US side, and will take necessary measures in response," Yang said.

Meanwhile, US president-elect Donald Trump blasted China for what he called an "unprecedented act."

"China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act," Trump said on Twitter, correcting an earlier tweet for which he was ridiculed for calling the act "unpresidented".

The US and China have previously clashed over the South China Sea amid territorial disputes between Beijing and its neighbours. China has also intercepted US military aircraft in the region before, most prominently provoking an international incident by capturing a US spy plane early in George W Bush's presidency.

China seized the underwater vehicle in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The drone known as an ocean glider was being used to collect military oceanographic data as part of routine operations near the Philippines when a Chinese Navy PRC DALANG III-Class ship intercepted it, Cook said.

The US Navy contacted the Chinese ship to ask for the return of the vessel, but was ignored, Cook said.

Territorial disputes and navigation issues in the South China Sea have caused tensions between China, its neighbours and the United States.

New satellite images this week showed China has significantly strengthened its military capabilities on contested islands in the South China Sea.

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