The U.S. China relationship took another hit when a Chinese naval ship intercepted and seized a U.S. Navy drone in international waters when it surfaced for retrieval by the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic and surveillance vessel of the United States Navy.
President-elect Trump, added fuel to fire when he made a rather uncalled for statement tweeting that it was an unprecedented act by China to take away the U.S. Navy drone.
“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of the water and takes it to China in unpresidented act,” Trump had said which was later deleted and the misspelled word “unpresidented” was corrected in a retweet.
Well, it certainly was an “unpresidented” comment as Trump is not yet officially the President of the United States and his statement is likely to irk China, a second time around, after his telephonic conversation with the Taiwanese president, a blatant disregard of America’s one-China policy over three decades.
Trump’s vitriolic message came after China’s foreign ministry said that negotiations were on with the United States over the captured UVV.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary, Peter Cook’s, statement on Friday, the UVV was seized on Thursday about 50 nautical miles north-west of Subic Bay in the Philippines, just when the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve one of the two “ocean gliders” employed in the region for survey purposes.
Peter Cook said that the Bowditch did make radio contact with the Chinese warship after the seizure of the “glider” and requested its return.
“The radio contact was acknowledged by the [Chinese] navy ship, but the request was ignored,” the Pentagon Press Secretary said in his statement.
“The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”
The Chinese foreign ministry has taken exception to the unnecessary “hyping up” of the issue and has said it was inappropriate for an amicable resolution.
A statement on the Chinese ministry website said: “China decided to return it to the US side in an appropriate manner, and China and the US have all along been in communication about it.”
“During this process, the US 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,” the website added.
In his final press conference of 2016 at the White House, President Obama had a word of advice to the incoming president Donald Trump with regards to Unites States’ relations with China.
“The idea of ‘one China’ is at the heart of their conception as a nation,” Obama said, “and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what are the consequences.
“Because the Chinese will not treat that the way they will treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they treat issues around the South China Sea, where we have had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves and their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant.”
“This looks like signalling from the Chinese in response to Trump’s Taiwan call,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
“It is hard to believe this is the action of an independent commander. The Chinese now have much better control over the military, particularly the navy. It is in China’s interest to send signals before Trump is inaugurated so that he gets the message and be more restrained once he is in office.”
According to a US official, the captured underwater drone was deployed for collecting oceanographic data, including salinity, temperature, and clarity of the water.