Chinese state media have reported that Beijing will return an underwater drone seized in the South China Sea to the United States. The US had slammed what it called an "unlawful seizure" in international waters.
China will return a US underwater drone it seized that was used to collect military oceanographic data, state media said on Saturday.
"The Chinese side has decided to hand over it to the US in an appropriate manner," said Chinese ministry of defense spokesman Yang Yujun to Xinhua news agency.
Yang however warned that China would "continue to be vigilant" against what Beijing sees as the frequent deployment of US military vessels and aircraft into Chinese waters for reconnaissance work.
The Pentagon confirmed that an agreement had been reached.
"Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) to the United States," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook in a statement.
The Chinese ministry of defense took the unmanned drone out of the South China Sea on Thursday "in order to prevent the device from causing harm to the safety of navigation and personnel of passing vessels," according to the Xinhua news agency on Sunday, citing the Ministry of Defense.
The Pentagon said the drone was operating lawfully and was collecting data on salinity, temperature and clarity of the water about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines. It was taken by Chinese military shortly before the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve it, according to US officials.
China accused the United States of "hyping" the incident.
"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," said the Chinese Defense Ministry.
US President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter for his reaction to the seized ship, saying China should keep the drone it "stole."
Relations between the United States and China have been tense since Trump took a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on December 2. Trump said he was not "bound by a one-China policy" regardless of the status of Taiwan, unless the US can gain benefits from China.
China considers Taiwan a self-governing island in its own territory. The call from Taiwan was the first known communication between the United States and Taiwan since 1979.
kbd/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)