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Chinese Navy returns seized underwater drone to U.S.

21 December 2016
Chinese Navy returns seized underwater drone to U.S.

On Tuesday China handed back to the U.S.an underwater drone.

China has long opposed American patrols and surveillance within its exclusive economic zone, while the USA views anything beyond 12 nautical miles as worldwide waters in which military activities can take place.

Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, the Navy's oceanographer and commander of Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, said the UUV was built by Teledyne Technologies [TDY] Teledyne Webb Research and is part of a fleet of about 130 Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Gliders (LBS-G) that the Navy began operating in 2012.

The drone was seized while collecting unclassified scientific data about 92km northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson.

The Chinese Defense Ministry issued a misguided assertion that "the USA military has frequently dispatched vessels and aircraft to carry out close-in reconnaissance and military surveys".

"What is truly incredible about this tweet, was the soon-to-be United States president completely misrepresented what had actually happened - that is more unsafe than amusing", it said.

The handling of the incident showed that China and the USA have a "smooth channel of communication", said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, emphasized at a press briefing in Beijing on Monday that the One-China policy represents "the political foundation" in the development of U.S.

Without directly saying whether the USA drone was operating in waters Beijing considers its own, China's Defense Ministry said US ships and aircraft have for a long period been carrying out surveillance and surveys in "the presence" of Chinese waters. Several U.S. analysts say the seizure occurred inside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, which would appear to violate worldwide law.

While the United States takes no position on sovereignty claims in South China Sea, it has repeatedly stressed freedom of navigation.

But in the tinderbox that is the South China Sea, the ownership of which is disputed by five Asian nations, the seizure has been controversial.

"During this process, the USA side's unilateral and open hyping up is inappropriate, and is not beneficial to the smooth resolution of this issue".

US President-elect Donald Trump also waded into the row.

At about 3:30 am on Saturday, China agreed to return the Navy drone they had seized in the South China Sea. Back in 2001, the Chinese seized a USA spy plane when it was forced to land in China's Hainan Island and held 24 United States crew members for 11 days. "I believe Beijing accelerated plans to create an early test for the new administration because Trump publicly called into question the One China policy and because China judged it safer to provoke Obama than an unpredictable Trump".

'Now people don't know if Trump is engaged in a psychological war with China or he is just unprofessional, even though he will be sworn in soon. Such taunts of US weakness by American allies around the world frequently have been used to get the United States to spend more effort and resources on the defense of what are now very rich nations.