DIPLOMACY

China to Return Seized U.S. Navy Drone

China will return the U.S. Navy drone it seized on Thursday, the Pentagon said Saturday, after China’s Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of “hyping up” the issue. The underwater drone was picked up by a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea on Thursday, with Beijing implying that it was in waters controlled by China, while U.S. authorities insisted it was being operated “lawfully.” Amid fears of a major international spat over the matter, China on Saturday said the whole incident was really no big deal, and that the U.S. had been overly dramatic. “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. … 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,” the defense ministry said in a statement on its website. The drone, which was about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch when it was snatched by the Chinese, was worth about $150,000, the Pentagon said Friday. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis on Friday said the drone was “clearly marked as ours” and “we would like this not to happen again.”