On Thursday, China seized an unmanned sub in the South China Sea that belonged to the U.S. Navy. Following a diplomatic complaint from the Pentagon, China now says it will return the vessel and that Americans were “hyping up” an incident that’s really no big deal.
According to U.S. officials, the drone submarine was just off of the coast of the Philippines and about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch when a Chinese Navy vessel took it. The sub was reportedly “collecting data about the salinity, temperature and clarity of the water.”
For its part, China’s Defense Ministry says that its vessel simply came across a piece of “unidentified equipment” and they wanted to check it out for any “navigational safety issues.” The ministry published a statement on its website that claims it was in contact with the U.S. the whole time. The message also says that people need to take a chill pill, “During this process, the U.S. 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.”
Many suspected that China was attempting to send a message to the U.S. after Donald Trump’s unprecedented conversation with the President of Taiwan. The call broke traditional diplomatic protocols because China doesn’t recognize Taiwan as an independent state and Americans have followed a “one China” policy that tip-toes around that tension. Not one for tip-toeing, Trump made it clear that he’ll talk to whoever has his phone number.
Just a week before Trump’s chat with the Taiwanese President, China flew nuclear-capable bombers around the island.
Early this morning, the presumed U.S. President-elect tweeted that China’s seizure of the unmanned sub was “unpresidented.” His strongly worded message was deleted 87 minutes later and replaced with the same message minus the Freudian-slip spelling error. But screenshots are forever: