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FILE - In this undated file photo released by the U.S. Navy Visual News Service, the USNS Bowditch, a T-AGS 60 Class Oceanographic Survey Ship, sails in open water. China's seizure of an American underwater drone is the latest sign that the Pacific Ocean's dominant power and its rising Asian challenger are headed for more confrontation once U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office, analysts said on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (CHINFO, Navy Visual News via AP, File)

China returned the US Navy mini-sub drone it seized last week

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China returned a U.S. Navy research drone it had seized near the Philippines last week in an event that exacerbated tensions between the two nations in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump's bucking of U.S.-China policy norms.

China said at the time it did so to keep passing ships safe. A U.S. crew was a quarter of a mile away when the drone, used to map the ocean floor and collect environmental data, was seized.

The Pentagon called the seizure "unlawful," though China disagreed.

This incident was inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea.
Peter Cook, Pentagon press secretary

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the deployment of U.S. aircraft and vessels near Chinese territory constitutes a threat to its sovereignty.

China wants to send a message to the U.S. side about how serious the consequences can be.
Xiong Zhiyong, China Foreign Affairs University

After Trump took a call from the leader of Taiwan and questioned the need for a "One China" policy, some experts interpreted China seizing the drone as a warning to other nations to stay out.

Trump tweeted on Saturday that China should keep the drone they "stole."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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