China has returned the U.S. Navy underwater drone it seized in the South China Sea last week, bringing a peaceful end to a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Washington. In a statement early Tuesday, China’s defense ministry said the vessel was transferred after days of “friendly negotiations. ” A Pentagon statement didn’t show such friendliness: The incident was “inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea,” according to the Pentagon statement, and the U.S. “called on Chinese authorities to comply with their obligations under international law and to refrain from further efforts to impede lawful U.S. activities.” Chinese naval forces had picked up the device near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, north of Subic Bay in the Philippines and implied the U.S. had been spying. The U.S. side insisted the unmanned underwater vehicle was used legally, as part of an oceanographic survey conducted by the USS Bowditch, when a Chinese warship snatched it from the water.
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