China on Monday rejected US President-elect Donald Trump’s claim that it had “stolen” an American research drone, as state media said his diplomatic inexperience could spark a confrontation between the two nations.
Beijing’s seizure of the marine probe in international waters in the South China Sea raised already heightened tensions between the world’s two largest military powers.
On Sunday, after Beijing and Washington announced 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!”
China objected to Trump’s accusation that it had stolen the drone, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday, adding the claim was “not accurate”.
“Imagine that you found something on the street — you would need to first check and verify it before handing it back to someone else,” she told a regular press conference.
Hua said the two sides “are in smooth communication through military channels, and we believe the incident will be properly handled”. She gave no further details.
The Pentagon said Friday that a Chinese naval vessel “unlawfully” grabbed the unmanned underwater vehicle around 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines.