BEIJING- China has returned a US underwater drone seized last week at an agreed location in the South China Sea.
“After friendly consultations between the Chinese and US sides, the handover work for the US underwater drone was smoothly completed in relevant waters in the South China Sea at midday on December 20,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a brief statement cited by Reuters.
The Pentagon has already confirmed that its unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) was returned to the US “near the location it had been unlawfully seized.”
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— Peter Cook (@PentagonPresSec) December 19, 2016
Peter Cook, the Pentagon spokesman, described the incident as “inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea.” He added that the US will “fly, sail, and operate in the South China Sea. in the same way that we operate everywhere else around the world.”
A Chinese Navy Dalang vessel seized the UUV in South China Sea waters near the Philippines last Thursday. The survey ship that launched the drone, the USNS Bowditch, attempted to establish radio contact with the Dalang, but with no result, according to the US military. The US vessel was about to retrieve the drone before it was captured.
Washington maintained the Bowditch had been collecting data and samples of surface, mid-water and ocean floor measurements.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “The handling of this incident shows that the Chinese and U.S. militaries have quite smooth communication channels. We think that this communication channel is beneficial to timely communication and the handling of sudden incidents and prevention of miscalculations and misunderstandings,” she said.
“As to what the U.S. defense department said, I have to verify it with the military. But I think what they said is unreasonable as we have always said that for a long time the U.S. military has regularly sent ships and aircraft to carry out close up surveillance and military surveys in waters facing China, which threatens China’s sovereignty and security,” Hua said.
“China is resolutely opposed to this and has always demanded the U.S. end these kinds of activities. I think this is the cause of this or similar incidents.”