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Iran Press TV

China to return US drone: Pentagon

Iran Press TV

Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:27PM

China has agreed to return a US underwater drone it seized in the South China Sea on Friday, the US Defense Department says.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Saturday that Beijing and Washington had reached an "understanding" through appropriate channels to return the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

A Chinese warship seized the surveillance device 92 km (57 miles) north-west of a US military base in Subic Bay near the Philippines in the South China Sea.

"Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States," Cook said.

Beijing said earlier that it would hand over the drone in an "appropriate manner," after carrying out special examinations on it "to prevent the device from causing harm to the safety of navigation and personnel of passing vessels"

China also blasted the US for choosing to "dramatize" the issue, calling it an "inappropriate and unhelpful" move.

Upon the drone's seizure by Chinese servicemen, USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic research ship, tried to retrieve it to no avail.

The US made a formal diplomatic complaint to China over the incident, accusing Beijing of breaching international laws.

"The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately and to comply with all of its obligations under international law," Cook said.

"The USNS Bowditch and the UUV -- an unclassified 'ocean glider' system used around the world to gather military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, and sound speed -- were conducting routine operations in accordance with international law," the Pentagon spokesman added.

Pentagon press operations director Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that China had to return the drone and reassure Washington that such incidents would "never happen again."

Meanwhile, US President-elect Donald Trump, who would replace President Barack Obama on January 20, said that China should keep the drone.

"We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back - let them keep it!" Trump tweeted.

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