China seizes US navy drone, but vows to return it soon

The USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, is seen in this undated U.S. Navy handout photo. U.S. Navy via REUTERS

BBC – The Pentagon says it has “secured an understanding” with China that it will return an underwater drone seized in the South China Sea.

China captured the US vessel in international waters on Thursday. It has not explained why and accused the US of “hyping-up” the incident.

US President-elect Donald Trump accused the Chinese of “stealing”.

The incident is among the most serious military confrontations between the two powers for decades.

The Pentagon said the drone, known as an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), was being used to carry out scientific research at the time it was captured and demanded its immediate return. It warned China not to repeat such a move in the future.

But a spokesman said later on Saturday that an agreement had been reached.

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

Earlier China’s Chinese defence ministry criticised the US response, calling it “inappropriate and unhelpful”.

That statement came hours after a tweet by the US president-elect, in which he accused the Chinese of “stealing”.

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