China to Return Seized U.S. Underwater Drone

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The Pentagon and China’s Defense Ministry said an American underwater survey drone that a Chinese naval vessel seized in the South China Sea would be returned to the U.S., ending a brief standoff that comes as China shows resistance to U.S. maritime surveillance in the region.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said on Saturday that the U.S. had “secured an understanding” that China would return the underwater survey drone, after engaging directly with Chinese authorities. He didn’t say when or how the device, which a Chinese vessel seized on Thursday, would be returned.

His announcement came hours after the Chinese Defense Ministry said its navy rescue ship had retrieved the “unknown device” because it posed a safety risk to ships and sailors. China said its authorities would return the drone, having identified it, but accused the U.S. of being unhelpful by going public with the incident on Friday.
“The U.S. side’s unilateral public hyping is inappropriate and not conducive to a resolution of the issue,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said.

President-elect Donald Trump criticized the seizure on Saturday, days after provoking Beijing’s ire by suggesting his administration may abrogate a decadeslong agreement on the status of Taiwan if Beijing doesn’t make concessions to U.S. interests.

“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters—rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act,” Mr. Trump wrote in a Twitter message. His original tweet on the subject on Saturday called the seizure an “unpresidented act,” but a replacement message corrected the spelling error.

Later Saturday, he wrote another Twitter message saying: “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!”