The Chinese government has finally returned the U.S. underwater drone it seized last week in the South China Sea.
“After friendly consultations between China and the United States, the transfer of the US underwater drone was smoothly completed,” a statement from the Chinese Ministry of Defense said
The unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) was taken Thursday from the USNS Bowditch, an unarmed oceanographic survey ship, 50 miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines.
The Pentagon said the USNS Bowditch was attempting to retrieve it and another underwater vehicle when a Chinese submarine launched a boat to seize the drone. The Chinese ship then ignored repeated demands to return the drone to the U.S. ship.
A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson denied the drone had been stolen:
“The Chinese navy discovered the device — and identified and verified it in a responsible and professional manner. Whether the device was lifted out of water and dragged in water, I think the key point was that the Chinese navy did so in a responsible and professional manner. And they did so to prevent it from harming navigational and personnel safety of passing ships.”
The Pentagon said in a statement that they will investigate the seizure that took place in international waters.
“The US remains committed to upholding the accepted principles and norms of international law and freedom of navigation and overflight and will continue to fly, sail, and operate in the South China Sea wherever international law allows, in the same way that we operate everywhere else around the world.”
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