Trump: China should keep seized US drone

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President-elect Donald Trump 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!.”

The tweet came hours after Trump condemned China for taking the drone and a spokesman credited the president-elect on Twitter for China returning the device.

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. 

Some have suggested that China’s initial seizure of the drone was a response to the president-elect’s phone call with Taiwan’s leader earlier this month.

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.

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