Incident appropriately handled, says Beijing on US drone seizure
Confirming the seizure of an unmanned underwater drone of the US by its navy in the disputed South China Sea, China on Saturday said both sides are “appropriately handling” the issue while a Chinese military official said that the issue will be “resolved successfully”.
“According to (our) understanding, the US and Chinese sides are working on appropriately to handle this matter through channels between the two militaries,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in its first reaction on the incident while replying to queries from the media outlets here.
Earlier, Chinese military confirmed that it has received a request from the US to return its underwater drone seized by the PLA Navy warship in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) and said that the issue will be “resolved successfully”.
A Chinese military source confirmed that they received a “claim request” from the US for an underwater drone after a Chinese warship seized it during a security check in the SCS, state-run Global Times reported in its web edition.
China believes that the incident will be “resolved successfully,” the daily quoted a PLA (People’s Liberation Army) source as saying.
Earlier, reports from Washington said the request was made by the US after its unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) was picked up by a Chinese naval ship about 80 kms northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines on December 15 just just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve it.
“We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in the statement.
US officials said the UUV is an unclassified “ocean glider” system used around the world to gather data on salinity, water temperature and sound speed.
The incident – first of its kind in the tense standoff between US and Chinese navy in the disputed SCS – comes in the backdrop of increasing strains between the two countries over US President-elect, Donald Trump’s criticism of China on building of military installation in the SCS and his questioning of One China policy after holding talks with Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen which drew strong diplomatic protests from Beijing.
China has become more assertive over the SCS after an international tribunal this year struck down its claim over all most all of the area.