Chinese military on Saturday confirmed that it has received a request from the US to return its underwater drone seized by PLA Navy warship in the disputed South China Sea and said that the issue will be “resolved successfully”.
A Chinese military source confirmed that they received a “claim request” from the US on Saturday for an underwater drone after a Chinese warship seized it during a security check in the South China Sea (SCS), a state-run newspaper's web edition reported.
China believes that the incident will be “resolved successfully,” the daily quoted a PLA (People’s Liberation Army) source as saying.
However, there is no official statement here yet on the incident.
Earlier reports from Washington said the request was made by the US after its unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) was picked up by a Chinese naval ship about 80 kms northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines on December 15 just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve it.
“We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.
US officials said the UUV is an unclassified “ocean glider” system used around the world to gather data on salinity, water temperature and sound speed.
The incident, first of its kind in the tense stand off between US and Chinese navy in the disputed SCS came in the backdrop of increasing strains between the two countries over US President-elect, Donal Trump’s criticism of China on building of military installation in the SCS and his questioning of One China policy after holding talks with Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen which drew strong diplomatic protests from Beijing.
China has become more assertive over the SCS after an international tribunal this year struck down its claim over all most all of the area.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have counter claims over the South China Sea.
Also, amid increasing tensions, China’s first aircraft carrier conducted its maiden live fire drills on a massive scale along with a host of naval ships, aircraft and submarines, four years after it was commissioned.
China has also confirmed it is building military facilities in some of the reclaimed islands saying that the deployment of necessary defensive facilities on some islands in the SCS is legitimate and normal.
Reacting to the reports showing satellite images of the military facilities in the islands revealed by US think tank, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Thursday that the SCS islands are China’s inherent territory and it is building necessary defensive facilities on its own territory which is completely normal and has nothing to do with militarisation.