According to a terse statement that the News Bureau of China’s Ministry of National Defense issued, at noon on December 20 in related waters of the South China Sea, and after friendly consultation between the Chinese and U.S. sides, the handover of a U.S. underwater drone was carried out smoothly.
A New York Times report on its Chinese website noted that China did not mention that the presence of the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea had caused the tension between the two countries. BBC Chinese also reported the expectation that China would take the opportunity of returning the underwater drone to demand that the U.S. reduce its reconnaissance activities in the South China Sea.
There was no such expression in the Defense Ministry’s one sentence statement issued within hours of the hand over.
On December 17, a spokesperson from China’s Defense Ministry issued a statement confirming that, on the afternoon of December 15, a Chinese naval lifeboat located an unidentified device in the waters of the South China Sea. In order to prevent the device from causing harm to the safety of navigation and personnel of passing vessels, the Chinese naval lifeboat verified and examined the device in a professional and responsible manner.
Upon examination, the spokesperson noted, the device was identified as an underwater drone of the United States. The Chinese side decided to hand it over it to the U.S. in an appropriate manner. Both sides maintained communication on the issue. The spokesperson added, “We regret that,” after commenting, the U.S. side’s unilateral move to dramatize the issue in the process was inappropriate and not conductive to its settlement.
The spokesperson also emphasized that for a long time, the U.S. military has frequently dispatched vessels and aircraft to carry out close-in reconnaissance and military surveys within Chinese waters. According to a statement that the spokesperson published on the Defense Department’s website on December 17, “China resolutely opposes these activities and demands that the U.S. side stop such activities. China will continue to be vigilant against the relevant activities on the U.S. side and will take necessary measures in response.”
China’s Defense Ministry website, December 20, 2016,
New York Times Chinese website, December 20, 2016,
BBC Chinese, December 18, 2016,
Xinhua News Agency, December 18, 2016,