PENTAGON DEMANDS CHINA RETURN DRONE
WASHINGTON» The Pentagon demanded that China immediately return a U.S. Navy underwater drone that was captured in the South China Sea, in a confrontation certain to exacerbate tensions in a region where the government in Beijing has sought to assert greater control.
China “unlawfully seized” the unmanned underwater vehicle Thursday while it was being recovered by a U.S. Navy oceanographic survey ship during routine operations 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines, according to a Defense Department statement.
“We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in the statement. The vehicle is an unclassified “ocean glider” system used around world to gather data on salinity, water temperature and sound speed.
The incident, the latest in a string of confrontations in the region, focuses renewed attention on the strained relations over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, an issue that Presidentelect Donald Trump will inherit when he takes office next month. Trump, who campaigned on a promise to extract better terms for trade with China, already has provoked condemnation from Beijing for taking a phone call from Taiwan’s president and questioning the “One-China” policy for Taiwan and the mainland.