President-elect Donald Trump said on Saturday via Twitter that U.S. should let China keep the Drone that was seized by the communist giant in the South China Sea on Thursday.
Trump tweeted, “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it!” This was after China had agreed to return the unmanned underwater glider. Experts are considering this move by China as a step towards defusing the maritime tension between both the superpowers.
We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2016
According to the Pentagon, the drone was seized on Thursday while it was collecting unclassified scientific data in the South China Sea. The unmanned survey vehicle was released by USNS Bowditch, which is a survey vessel. The drone was seized 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines.
Trump’s China tweet earlier blamed the Communist giant for stealing the drone out of international waters in an “unpresidented act.” Trump had corrected the misspelled word in a reissued tweet, as reported by NBC News.
The USNS Bowditch had clarified that their initial request to their Chinese counterparts for returning the drone, fell on deaf ears. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said an official objection was registered to the unlawful seizure of the U.S. unmanned drone in the South China Sea.
The U.S. military said that through “direct engagement” with the Chinese, it’s “secured an understanding” and China will return the unmanned drone. This agreement was reached before Trump’s China tweet.
China’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement that it has decided to hand over the drone in an appropriate manner. It was not clarified what that meant. The Chinese submarine rescue ship that picked up the drone claimed the underwater glider was seized to ensure the safety of the passing ships.
China says it will return a US underwater drone it seized this week and says the US "hyped up" the issue. https://t.co/5WpQtU3sLj— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 17, 2016
It is worth noting that U.S. military has frequently sent naval vessels to carry out a military measurement in the disputed South China Sea. In the past, China has asked U.S. to stop the marine activities.
China’s statement also termed the response by the U.S. to the seizure of drone as “hype” and “unhelpful for settling the problem.” According to Song Zhongping, a Chinese expert on military affairs, the statement was an indirect warning to U.S. to stop the naval exercise in the South China Sea, or such incidents would be frequent.
This incident has been the most serious direct military confrontation between the two superpowers. But with China’s agreement to return the drone, it looks like both Washington and Beijing wants to de-escalate the tensions.
U.S. military has conducted several surveillance operations in the disputed South China Sea without any direct military confrontation. After Trump’s victory in the U.S. elections, there has been some tension between the U.S. and China.
Trump’s China tweets have further angered the communist giant. A few weeks back, the president-elect posted a series of tweets criticizing China for its operations in the South China Sea and its exchange rate policy. Trump believes that Yuan’s devaluation favors the Chinese exporters. He is also against the militarization of South China Sea by the Chinese Government.
China has in the past built and is further constructing artificial islands in the disputed region. These artificial islands are being militarized and used as a military outpost. Several other countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam have made claims over the disputed region.
Relations between U.S. and China have further deteriorated after Trump decided to speak with Taiwanese President. He also later said that he did not feel “bound by a one-China policy” regarding the status of Taiwan unless the U.S. could gain trade or other benefits from China.
Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer tweeted, “It’s almost as if Trump was looking to kick off China relations as badly as possible.” It is worth noting that China considers Taiwan as its own territory which should be recovered by force if necessary. Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, has accused Trump of being “very childish and impulsive.”
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]