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Donald Trump

‘Let them keep it!’ Trump tweets new twist in China drone drama

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 December, 2016, 10:29am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 December, 2016, 11:14am

US president-elect Donald Trump says the US should let China keep the US Navy’s unmanned underwater glider that it seized in the South China Sea.

Trump tweeted Sunday morning Hong Kong time: “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!”

His tweet came after the US military announced it had reached an understanding with China for the return of the underwater glider.

It was not immediately known what effect, if any, the president-elect’s tweet would have on the agreement with Beijing.

The tweet was the second time the president-elect injected himself into the controversy through Twitter.

Misspelling “unprecedented”, he tweeted earlier Saturday: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.” He later reissued the tweet, correcting the spelling

According to the Pentagon, the drone was seized Thursday while collecting unclassified scientific data in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

China says its navy seized a US Navy unmanned underwater glider to ensure the “safe navigation of passing ships”.

Defence 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. It said, “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.”

The statement said that after verifying that the device was an American unmanned submerged device, “China decided to transfer it to the US through appropriate means.”

It also accused the US of deploying “ships in China’s presence to conduct renaissance and military surveying. China is resolutely opposed to this and requests the U.S. stop such activities.”

According to the Pentagon, the drone was seized while collecting unclassified scientific data in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, about 92 kilometres northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse