The Hindu Business Line

China says it seized US Navy drone to ensure safety of ships; Trump takes jibe


China said on Saturday its military seized a US Navy unmanned underwater glider in the South China Sea, but would give the drone back. But President-elect Donald Trump tweeted later that the Chinese government should be told: “We don’t want the drone they stole back” and “let them keep it!”

This comes after US officials had confirmed that they “secured an understand­ing” for the return of the device. Trump’s evening tweet may extend one of the most serious incidents between the Amerment and the Chinese militaries in years.

The Chinese navy on Thursday seized the drone, which the Pentagon said was being operated by civilian contractor­s to conduct oceanic research. The US lodged a formal diplomatic complaint and demanded the drone back.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement saying that a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday.

“In order to prevent this device from posing a danger to the safe navigation of passing ships and personnel, the Chinese lifeboat adopted a profession­al and responsibl­e attitude in investigat­ing and verifying the device,” Yang said.

The statement said that after confirming that the device was an American unmanned submerged device, “China decided to transfer it to the US through appropriat­e means.”

The US said that “through direct engagement with Chinese authoritie­s, we have secured an understand­ing that the Chinese will return” the unmanned underwater vehicle, according to a stateican from Peter Cook, spokesman for US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

But Trump, after holding a rally to thank supporters for his election, took to Twitter to criticise the deal.

The US said China’s “unlawful seizure” came in internatio­nal waters. Yet, China pointedly accused the US of long sending ships “in China’s presence” to conduct “military surveying”.

Earlier on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the nation’s military was in contact with its American counterpar­ts on “appropriat­ely handling” the incident.

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