The People’s Republic of China has confirmed she has returned a United States Navy underwater drone seized last week in the South China Sea.
The underwater drone was handed over to United States defense authorities, today afternoon.
The Chinese Defense Ministry announced the return in a one sentence Chinese-language statement on its official website.
The United States claimed the drone was used to collect military oceanographic data as part of a routine operation.
The data collection was near the Philippines waterways.
A Chinese Naval ship intercepted the drone on December 15.
The Chinese held on to the craft for five days before releasing it.
The US Defense Department also issued a statement on the drone handover on Monday, saying that the initial seizure by China was unlawful.
“This incident was inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea.
“The US has addressed those facts with the Chinese through the appropriate diplomatic and military channels.
“We also have called on Chinese authorities to comply with their obligations under international law.
“They have to refrain from further efforts to impede lawful US activities,” it said.
After the incident, the US lodged a formal diplomatic complaint and demanded the drone back.
President-elect Donald Trump had tweeted on Sunday saying “Let China keep it!”
Earlier he had complained about China’s behavior regarding the incident.
“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of the water and takes it to China in an unprecedented act,” he tweeted.
Territorial disputes and navigation issues in the South China Sea have been a point of tension between China, its neighbors, and the United States.