China has said it will return an underwater U.S. drone seized by a naval vessel this week in the South China Sea.
Both countries reached an agreement on Saturday but China said that the U.S. was “hyping up” the incident.
The drone, known as an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), was taken on Thursday.
US defence headquarters, the Pentagon went public with the seizure but later announced on Saturday that it had reached a deal with China to get the drone back.
“Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.
The drone, which the Pentagon said was operating lawfully was collecting data about the salinity, temperature and clarity of the water about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, off the Philippines.
It was seized just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve it, U.S. officials said.
However, the Ministry of Defense in China said it found an unidentified object in the sea and retrived it to be checked only to discover it was a U.S. drone.
“China decided to return it to the U.S. side in an appropriate manner, and China and the U.S. have all along been in communication about it,” the ministry said on its website.
“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,” it added.
U.S President-elect, Donald Trump who promised to take an aggressive approach in dealing with China over its economic and military policies, had released some provocative tweets over the incident.
Trump accused China of stealing the drone, Reuters reports.
Trump, a Republican who takes office on Jan. 20, waded into the dispute on Twitter early on Saturday from his seaside resort club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, where he plans to spend the holidays.
“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.
After China said it would return the drone, Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, tweeted a link to a news story, saying: “@realdonaldtrump gets it done.”