President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE said Saturday evening that China should keep the U.S. Navy drone that it seized, just hours after Chinese officials said they would return it to the U.S.
“We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back,” Trump tweeted. “[L]et them keep it!.”
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
China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 17, 2016
The Pentagon confirmed earlier Saturday that it had communicated with China and the country signaled that it would return the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that it took from 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," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.
China first took the drone from off the coast of the Philippines on Thursday.
An oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch was set to retrieve the drone as part of routine operations when a Chinese ship dropped its own small boat in the water and seized the device.
The crew on the Bowditch signaled the Chinese ship to return the drone, but the boat sailed away without doing so.
Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen have both downplayed the significance of the conversation, but China formally protested the call, which broke with decades of U.S. protocol.
China on Saturday indicated it would return the unmanned device after confirming it was a U.S. underwater drone, while accusing the U.S. of having "unilaterally hyped" the issue.