China will return an underwater U.S. drone captured by a naval vessel on Thursday in the South China Sea, both nations stated on Saturday, but Beijing alleged Washington of “hyping up” the incident.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has told to take an aggressive stance in handling China over its financial and military policies, targeted the unusual drone seizure with a pair of tweets, alleging Beijing of stealing the devices.
Trump tweeted that the Chinese government should be told to keep the drone and not return. “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back – let them keep it!” Trump wrote on his Twitter.
The drone, regarded as an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), was seized on Thursday, the very first seizure of its kind in recent memory. The Pentagon went public with the issue after the action and said on Saturday it had secured a deal to obtain the drone back.
“Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook stated.
The drone, which the Pentagon said was running lawfully was gathering information about the salinity, temperature and clearness of the water about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, off the Philippines.
It was taken just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve it, U.S. officials added.
China’s Defense Ministry stated a Chinese naval vessel found a piece of “unidentified equipment” and checked it to prevent any navigational safety concerns before finding it was a U.S. drone.
“China decided to return it to the U.S. side in a proper manner, and China and the U.S. have all along remained in communication about it,” the ministry stated on its website.
“Throughout this process, the U.S. side’s unilateral and open hyping up is unsuitable, and is not beneficial to the smooth resolution of this concern. We express regret at this,” it included.