President Xi Jinping addresses territorial issues in New Year speech
In his New Year's address, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, "We resolutely safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. Chinese people will never allow anyone to get away with making a great fuss about it." China's assertive and territorial moves in the disputed South China Sea has unnerved neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, who have claims over the same.
A Chinese Navy vessel seized an underwater drone deployed by a US oceanographic vessel in South China Sea's international waters. It was "taken" around 50 nautical miles from Subic Bay as the USNS Bowditch was going to retrieve the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV). It was to test water salinity and temperatures for underwater channel mapping. The US protested and demanded the drone be returned.
China's drone seizure coincided with the "sabre-rattling" from China's state media and some in the military after Donald Trump cast doubt on whether the US would stick to its almost four-decades-old policy of recognizing Taiwan as a part of "One China". The incident came to light after the President-elect had a telephone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-Wen, sparking a diplomatic protest from China.
Confirming the incident, the Pentagon said the drone used commercially available technology and sold for $150,000. However, the Pentagon had taken China's seizure quite seriously as it has "effectively" taken the US's military property. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said: "It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again."
A US official said, "The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea. It's a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water - that it was US property."
China's Defence Ministry said it had been in talks with the US regarding returning an American underwater drone taken by its naval vessel. It added the US was "hyping up" the issue, which isn't helping matters. It said a Chinese naval vessel discovered "a piece of unidentified equipment" on Thursday and checked it to prevent navigational safety issues, before discovering it was the US's.
The Chinese Ministry stated it would return the drone to the US in an "appropriate" manner. It added, "the US side's unilateral and open hyping-up is inappropriate. We express regret at this." The US President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: "China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act."
The ministry, however, didn't directly mention the drone was operating in waters China claims its own. It said American aircraft and ships have been carrying out surveys and surveillance for long in "the presence" of Chinese waters. It stated, "China is resolutely opposed to this, and demands the US stops this kind of activity." China would take necessary measures to deal with such activities.
The US President Barack Obama said it was appropriate for President-elect Donald Trump to take a "fresh" look at the US's policy toward Taiwan. But, he cautioned a shift could alter the US's relations with China.
President-elect Donald Trump said that the US should permit China to keep the US Navy's unmanned underwater glider that 'they stole'. Trump's comments came a few hours after the US military announced that China had agreed to return the drone. The Pentagon had claimed the drone was gathering unclassified scientific data and the seizure was 'unlawful'.
The unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) by USA in the South China Sea was seized by a Chinese naval vessel on Thursday. The Pentagon-operated drone was collecting data about the salinity, temperature and clarity of the water and was doing so lawfully. The USNS Bowditch, who was operating the drone was called a "serial offender in spying operations against China."
Rejecting Trump's claims of stealing the drone, Chinese state media said his diplomatic inexperience could light a spark between the two countries. On Sunday after Beijing said that the drone would be returned, Trump tweeted: We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it! Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Trump's accusation "not accurate."
Amid increasing tensions between China and Taiwan, a Chinese aircraft carrier accompanied by Chinese war ships entered the South China Sea and sailed past Taiwan. Chinese officials said it was part of routine maritime drills in the region. China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, accompanied by five war ships, had passed southeast of the Pratas Islands, which are controlled by Taiwan.
The Liaoning, China's sole aircraft carrier entered the Western Pacific in its first training exercise outside Chinese waters. Chinese analysts said as an aircraft carrier, "it should at least go beyond the Second Island Chain (Guam, Iwo Jima, Mariana) or reach the Indian Ocean before it officially acquires global capability." Japanese and Taiwanese officials reported spotting the air craft carrier crossing the Miyako Strait.