Defence ministry in Beijing says it handed the drone back after
"friendly consultations" with American counterparts.
China seized the drone on Thursday northwest of
Subic Bay in international waters
China has returned an
underwater drone seized from the United States in the South China
Sea after the incident sparked a dispute between the global
The handover of the small unmanned vehicle to the US was "completed
smoothly" after "friendly consultations" between both sides, China's
defence ministry said in a short statement on its website on Tuesday.
The "naval glider" was used to test water salinity and temperatures
to help in the mapping of underwater channels, a US defence official
had said, adding "it
was taken" by China in international waters off Subic Bay last
The Chinese navy vessel that seized the drone returned it near the
location where it had been taken, US Pentagon press secretary Peter
Cook said in a statement issued late Monday.
China said it snatched the equipment because it posed a safety
hazard to other vessels. It also said it "strongly opposed" US
reconnaissance in the South China Sea and asked Washington to stop
US president-elect Donald Trump also waded into the dispute. On
Sunday, after Beijing and Washington announced it would be returned,
Trump tweeted: "We should tell China that we don't want the drone they
stole back - let them keep it!"
The US military has conducted several "freedom of navigation"
operations in the South China Sea, in which ships and planes have
passed close to the sites Beijing claims.
Such missions have drawn howls of fury from China, which accuses
Washington of provocation and increasing the risk of a military
The vessel's seizure comes amid rising tensions in the South China
Sea, where China has moved to fortify its claims to the region by
building tiny reefs into artificial islands. New
satellite imagery made public by a US-based think-tank last week
showed that China installed what appeared to be large anti-aircraft
guns and close-in weapons systems on seven islets in the Spratly