Trump to China on Seized Drone: You Can Keep It

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Chinese military vessel in South China Sea

In a Saturday evening tweet, president-elect Donald Trump told the Chinese that they can “keep” the drone they “stole” from the U.S. Navy. Last week, China spotted an underwater glider in the South China Sea and seized it.

After the incident, U.S. officials announced that they spoke with Chinese authorities who agreed to return the drone.  Pentagon said that a non-military contractor operated the unmanned device for oceanic research. The country demanded the device back through diplomatic channels.

China found the drone Thursday. On Saturday, Chinese officials announced they found an unknown device on their country’s territory. They explained that they seized the machine in order to keep navigation of passing personnel and ships safe. Beijing described the intervention as “professional and responsible.”

Officials also said that as soon as they identified it as belonging to the Americans they decided to return it through appropriate channels. U.S. military officials confirmed they discussed with their Chinese counterparts for the transfer of the device.

Trump Calls China’s Move ‘Unpresidented’

However, Trump was not pleased with the deal. Shortly after a ‘thank you’ rally, he blasted China on Twitter.

“We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!”

he tweeted.

Several hours earlier, he criticized the seizure. He accused China of “steal[ing]” the device from the U.S. navy. He also said the research drone was floating in international waters. Moreover, he ended his rant by calling the move an “unpresidented act”

The Pentagon confirmed the device was in international waters, but the Chinese accused the U.S. military of sending ships to the area to conduct spying. The Chinese Defense Ministry urged the U.S.A. to halt “such activities.” The ministry added that the Asian country would remain vigilant and take “necessary measures” to handle such activities.

On Saturday, China’s Foreign Ministry announced the Chinese military is negotiating with its U.S. counterparts on how to appropriately handle the incident. The Chinese declined to give more details on the talks.

Experts Claim China Breached International Law

Sen. John McCain who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee said two days ago the seizure is a violation of international law. On Friday, a Pentagon spokesperson said China seized the drone 57 miles off the Philippines coast in the South China Sea.

The Chinese claim the area is entirely theirs. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis of the Pentagon was visibly irked by the incident. On Friday, he confirmed the drone belonged to the U.S. and the country would like it back. He also urged China not to do something like this again.

Davis disclosed the $150,000 device is purely commercial and was collecting unclassified scientific information at the moment of the seizure. The incident could have had tragic implications as the USNS Bowditch, which is not a war ship but carries small arms on board, was recovering two gliders when a Chinese ship appeared.

The ships got within a 500-yard distance from one another but they fired no shots. The Chinese vessel seized the 10-feet-long drone with no explanation telling USNS Bowditch crew that they were “returning to normal operations.”

An expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the device was located in Philippines’ economic zone, so the seizure is illegal.
Image Source: Wikimedia

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