Pentagon: China will return underwater drone ‘stolen’ in South China Sea

File photo of USNS Bowditch

China will return an underwater drone it ‘stole’ from the USNS Bowditch, a civilian U.S. Navy oceanographic survey ship which was operating in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

“Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday that the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said that “China has decided to hand over the U.S. underwater drone it captured in its waters to the United States in an appropriate manner.”

It is still unclear when exactly the UUV will be returned and what an ‘appropriate manner’ entails.

According to the U.S., the ocean glider was deployed in international, and not in Chinese waters.

According to Yang’s statement, China picked up the drone to safeguard shipping in the area and prevent the device from causing harm to vessels.

Other media reports said personnel from USNS Bowditch were preparing to lift the UUV from the water as it was completing its mission when a Chinese ship that had been shadowing Bowditch lowered a boat to snatch the device.

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that the U.S. should tell China it does not want the drone back.

The latest South China Sea incident between U.S. and China comes after Donald Trump received a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan, a state island China considers its own, becoming the first U.S. president to do so in almost 40 years.

In another media appearance Trump said that U.S. should reconsider its stance on the ‘one China’ policy.

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