China on Saturday said the situation triggered by its military’s seizure of a US underwater drone from the South China Sea (SCS) will be handled “appropriately” and “resolved successfully”, several hours after the capture triggered one of the most serious incidents in the region in years.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a single statement that the Chinese military was in communication with American counterparts on “appropriately handling” the situation, which developed after the US unmanned drone was seized.
“According to (our) understanding, the U.S. and Chinese sides are working on appropriately handling this matter through channels between the two militaries,” the Associated Press said, quoting the foreign ministry.
Separately, the state-run tabloid, the Global Times quoted an unnamed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) source as saying that the incident will be “resolved successfully”.
The PLA officer confirmed to the newspaper that “…they received on Saturday a ‘claim request’ from the US for an underwater drone after a Chinese warship seized the craft during a security check in the South China Sea”.
“The Pentagon had confirmed the incident at a news briefing on Friday and said the drone used commercially-available technology and sold for about $150,000,” Reuters reported.
“The drone was seized while collecting unclassified scientific data about 92 kilometers (57 miles) northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday ,” the AP report said.
The Chinese state media has barely reported the incident, with the Global Times carrying only a brief report on it.
“A Chinese navy ship discovered an "unidentified device" Thursday and was checking on it for the sake of maritime safety,” the report said.
Though the incident seemed to have been resolved, the seizure is the latest in a series of exchanges between the US and China in the last couple of weeks.
It began with US president-elect Donald Trump’s unprecedented phone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and then his questioning of Washington’s “one China” policy, which basically means the US sees Taiwan as part of China; Beijing claims Taiwan and sees it as a breakaway region.
The two countries have verbally clashed on several occasions in the past with Washington and Beijing accusing each other of militarising the SCS region, which China claims nearly in its entirety.
Beijing is locked in disputes with several countries like Philippines and Malaysia over the ownership of islands in the region.
Global trade worth more than $ 5 trillion passes through the SCS and the region is said to be rich in oil and gas reserves .