The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

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