Shortly after president-elect Trump’s “unprecedented action” tweet, Chinese authorities responded via their mouthpiece The China People’s Daily:
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) December 17, 2016
China’s Defense Ministry confirmed on Saturday it plans to return an underwater U.S. drone seized this week by a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea, but complained the United States was “hyping up” the incident. The drone was collecting data about the salinity, temperature and clarity of the water about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, off the Philippines, and was seized just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve it, U.S. officials said.
The Defense Ministry said a Chinese naval vessel discovered a piece of “unidentified equipment,” and checked it to prevent any navigational safety issues before discovering it was a U.S. drone.
“China decided to return it to the U.S. side in an appropriate manner, and China and the U.S. have all along been in communication about it,” the ministry said on its website. “During this process, the U.S. side’s unilateral and open hyping up is inappropriate, and is not beneficial to the smooth resolution of this issue. We express regret at this,” it added.
Without directly saying whether the drone was operating in waters China considers its own, China’s Defense Ministry said U.S. ships and aircraft have for a long period been carrying out surveillance and surveys in “the presence” of Chinese waters.
“China is resolutely opposed to this, and demands the U.S. stops this kind of activity,” it said. China will remain on alert for these sorts of activities and take necessary steps to deal with them, the ministry said without elaborating.
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As AP reported, China said Saturday that its military seized a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater glider in the South China Sea to ensure the “safe navigation of passing ships,” in one of the most serious incidents between the two militaries in years.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement late Saturday saying that a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday. “In order to prevent this device from posing a danger to the safe navigation of passing ships and personnel, the Chinese lifeboat adopted a professional and responsible attitude in investigating and verifying the device,” Yang said.
The statement said that after verifying that the device was an American unmanned submerged device, “China decided to transfer it to the U.S. through appropriate means.”
The statement also accused the U.S. of long deploying ships “in China’s presence” to conduct “military surveying.”
“China is resolutely opposed to this and requests the U.S. stop such activities,” it said. “China will continue to maintain vigilance against the relevant U.S. activities and will take necessary measures to deal with them.”
Earlier Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the country’s military was in contact with its American counterparts on “appropriately handling” the incident, though it offered no details on what discussions were underway.
In a separate report, the paper quoted retired Chinese admiral Yang Yi as saying China considered itself well within its rights to seize the drone.
“If China needs to take it, we’ll take it. (America) can’t block us,” Yang was quoted as saying. Yang said he was unsure of the purpose of seizing the drone, but didn’t think the matter qualified as a “military conflict.”
However, he added that the chances of a confrontation had risen following Trump’s recent comments, which were seen as testing China’s bottom line on Taiwan and other sensitive issues. “It’s natural for us to take possession of and research for a bit these types of things that America sends to our doorstep,” Yang said. “The louder they shout, the more their protests ring hollow.”
As we concluded earlier, the drone seizure coincided with sabre-rattling from Chinese state media and some in its military establishment after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump cast doubt on whether Washington would stick to its nearly four-decades-old policy of recognizing that Taiwan is part of “one China,” and as China devalues its currency to the weakest against the dollar since May 2008, Trump’s comments also drew reaction from China’s finance minister…
China hopes there won’t be a trade war with the United States, but it will take “appropriate steps” to cope with that possibility, a Chinese vice finance minister said on Saturday.
Zhu Guangyao, addressing an economic forum at a time of rising tensions with Washington, said both countries should abandon a “zero sum” mentality and seek to improve to improve economic and trade cooperation.
On Friday, Obama said it was appropriate for Trump to take a fresh look at U.S. policy toward Taiwan, but he cautioned that a shift could lead to significant consequences in the U.S. relationship with Beijing, as the notion that Taiwan is part of “one China” is central to China’s view of itself as a nation. For now, Trump is ignoring Obama’s advice and instead is more focused on venting about one-off “precedents” using Twitter without an autocorrect function.
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