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China Says Pentagon 'Hyping Up' Its Seizure Of U.S. Naval Probe

RFE/RL December 17, 2016

China's Defense Ministry has accused the United States of "hyping up" its seizure of a U.S. naval probe, saying that Beijing is "strongly opposed" to U.S. reconnaissance operations in the South China Sea.

In a statement issued a day after a Chinese warship seized the U.S. unmanned underwater glider, the Defense Ministry in Beijing on December 17 said "the hyping up from the American side is inappropriate and unhelpful to the swift resolution of the problem."

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry on December 17 said that its military was in contact with the Pentagon about "appropriately handling" the seizure of the U.S. underwater drone -- one of the most serious incidents between the two militaries in years.

The Pentagon on December 16 said the underwater drone was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research about 85 kilometers northwest of a U.S. naval base in the Philippines when the Chinese warship seized the vessel.

U.S. officials say the drone was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea at the time.

They described the drone as a "sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water" and containing warnings that "it is U.S. property."

The Pentagon later confirmed that the value of the drone is about $150,000.

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said: "It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again."

Washington says it has issued a formal diplomatic complaint and has demanded the return of the drone.

The dispute has frayed already tense relations between the United States and Beijing at a time when China has been building up its military maritime outposts in the South China Sea.

China claims that most of the South China Sea is its own territorial waters -- a position that has led to maritime territorial disputes with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

China's government has estimated the South China Sea may contain some 17.7 billion tons of crude oil.

Beijing was angered by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's decision to talk by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on December 2.

Trump also has said he does not feel "bound by a one-China policy" regarding the status of Taiwan, unless the United States gains trade or other benefits from Beijing.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/china-says-pentagon- hyping-seizure-of-naval-probe/28182091.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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