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China Says It Will Return US Drone Taken from South China Sea

China says it will give back an American drone it seized Thursday in international waters in the South China Sea.

Military officials of the United States and China were holding talks on the return of the unmanned vehicle, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

China's defense ministry said a Chinese naval ship observed what the ministry called “unidentified equipment” off the coast of the Philippines.

China says naval officials decided to take the object to make sure other ships could pass safely through the area. Chinese officials later discovered it was an unmanned underwater vehicle belonging to the United States.

U.S. officials have said the drone was operating in the area to collect scientific information related to water conditions and temperature.

U.S. officials have protested the incident. They say the seizure was unlawful. They have demanded the drone's immediate return. U.S. legal experts said the seizure happened inside an economic area belonging to the Philippines, possibly violating international law.

Arizona Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN Sunday the taking of the drone was a "gross violation of international law.”

On Saturday, Chinese defense officials said the U.S. equipment would be returned, in their words, “in an appropriate manner.” U.S. defense officials confirmed they were in contact with China about the issue.

The United States and other countries have raised concerns about China's growing military presence in the South China Sea.

Last week, an American-based research group released satellite images appearing to show that China had added weapons to man-made islands it built in the South China Sea.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported the weapons included anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

China created the man-made land formation in the Spratly Islands in recent years by building up sand on top of coral reefs.

The Spratly Islands are made up of many small islands, coral reefs and other land formations in the South China Sea. China, Taiwan and Vietnam each have claimed much of the area and its natural resources. Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the waterway.

I’m Jonathan Evans.


Words in This Story

drone – n. a small flying machine flown remotely by a pilot

seizure – n. act of taking something by force or violence

gross – adj. very serious or unacceptable

appropriate – adj. right or suited for a specific purpose

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