China warned on Saturday that a highly charged episode involving its capture of an American underwater drone launched by a United States naval vessel would not be resolved easily.
In a statement late Saturday, the Defense Ministry said it was in talks with the United States but criticized Washington for what it called an “inappropriate” exaggeration of the dispute. The American reaction, it said, is “not conducive to solving the problem smoothly.”
“We hereby express regrets for that,” it said.
Although the ministry said the drone would be returned to the United States in a “proper way,” the statement stopped short of saying when or how the device, which Chinese and American analysts say was most likely used to gather intelligence about Chinese submarine activity in contested waters, would be returned, or if it would be handed back intact.
President-elect Donald J. Trump entered the fray Saturday morning, accusing China on Twitter of acting improperly. “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act,” he said....
In its statement, the Defense Ministry scolded the United States over what it called its longstanding practice of conducting “close-in reconnaissance and military surveys” in waters claimed by China. The Chinese government has often complained to senior American officials, including President Obama, that the United States repeatedly intrudes by air and ship into waters close to China. The ministry’s statement reiterated the complaint, saying “China firmly opposes it and urges the U.S. side to stop such operations.”...
The action came two weeks after Mr. Trump angered Beijing by speaking by phone to the leader of Taiwan, and almost a week after he criticized China for building military bastions in the South China Sea. American officials were trying to determine whether the seizure was a response to Mr. Trump or whether it was just one more escalatory step in China’s long-term plan to try to push the United States Navy out of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest commercial and military waterways...
A retired Chinese rear admiral, Yang Yi, speaking earlier at a conference sponsored by a state-run newspaper, The Global Times, said the Americans had invited the Chinese sailors to take the drone by sailing in the waters close to the Scarborough Shoal, fishing grounds that are claimed by China and the Philippines.
The Americans “deliver these things to our home,” and it would be more than natural for Chinese sailors to seize the drone and examine it, Admiral Yang said.
“If Trump and the American government dare to take actions to challenge the bottom line of China’s policy and core interests,” he said, “we must drop any expectations about him and give him a bloody nose.”...
Reached by telephone, the president of a state-affiliated think tank, Wu Shicun, said the United States had most likely been conducting intelligence reconnaissance to detect Chinese submarine routes in the South China Sea. Mr. Wu, who heads the National Institute for South China Sea Studies and advises the government on maritime matters, described the drone “as a new way for the United States to conduct intelligence gathering.”
“Previously the United States conducted surveillance with warships in the nearby waters of China, or by aircraft,” he said. “Now the unmanned underwater vehicle is a new approach.” The Chinese were justified in taking the unmanned underwater vehicle, he said....
An American naval expert did not disagree with Mr. Wu’s notion of what the Americans were probably doing. “Warfare and surveillance in the age of drones has not yet developed an agreed-upon set of rules,” said Lyle J. Goldstein, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College, in Rhode Island.
“This is increasingly a major problem as both China and the U.S. are deploying ever more air and naval drones into the contested waters and airspace of the Western Pacific,” he said.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Retired Chinese Admiral: We May Have to Give Trump a Bloody Nose
From The New York Times report on the underwater drone incident:
at 12:39 PM