China has handed over the U.S. unmanned underwater drone that it seized on December 15th in the South China Sea in an unexpected move that stirred tensions between the two nations and led President-elect Donald Trump to tweet on Twitter that China was stealing the U.S. Navy research drone in international waters.
According to a released statement today from China’s Ministry of National Defense, China has handed over the U.S. underwater drone it captured in its waters to the United States.
“After friendly consultation, the handover was carried out smoothly Tuesday noon in related waters of South China Sea” China’s Ministry of Defense stated.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook released a statement acknowledging the USS Mustin received the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) for the U.S. in international waters approximately 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay.
The Pentagon statement further explains that the seized UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the U.S. Navy which was conducting routine operations in the international waters of the South China Sea in full compliance with international law and had just finished a pre-programmed military oceanographic survey route and was returning to the nearby USNS Bowditch when it was unlawfully seized on December 15th.
“This incident was inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea. The U.S. has addressed those facts with the Chinese through the appropriate diplomatic and military channels, and have called on Chinese authorities to comply with their obligations under international law and to refrain from further efforts to impede lawful U.S. activities” Pentagon Secretary Cook said in the statement.