Tillerson in Beijing set to talk on North Korea, South China Sea

Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in Beijing on Saturday for a face-to-face meeting with a China official who last week likened the U.S., South Korea and North Korea to speeding trains ready to hit each other.

Tillerson’s visit followed his remarks in South Korea on Friday in which he warned that pre-emptive military action against North Korea might be necessary if the threat from their weapons program reaches a level “that we believe requires action.”

China, the North’s biggest source of diplomatic support and economic assistance, has yet to respond to his remarks, although Beijing has called repeatedly for steps to reduce tensions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with whom Tillerson was due to meet on Saturday afternoon, spoke about the tension between the countries. He said, “The question is: Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” Wang told reporters. “Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”

Wang said North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, a proposal swiftly shot down by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who said Washington has to see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea before it can take leader Kim Jong Un seriously.

Tillerson: Nothing is off the table in dealing with N. Korea

Tillerson’s comments in Seoul that “all of the options are on the table,” including possible military action, are likely to be deeply disconcerting to Beijing, which fears that a collapse of Kim’s regime would send waves of refugees into northeastern China and land South Korean and American forces on its border.

China has agreed reluctantly to U.N. Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea, while calling for renewed dialogue under the Beijing-sponsored six-nation format that broke down in 2009.

In a further sign of its frustration with Pyongyang, China last month banned imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year, potentially depriving Kim’s regime of a key source of foreign currency.

Past U.S. administrations have considered military force because of North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile to deliver them, but rarely has that option been expressed so explicitly as by Tillerson.

North Korea has accelerated its weapons development, violating multiple Security Council resolutions without being deterred by sanctions. The North conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests last year. Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. within a few years.

China has stridently opposed the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system to South Korea, saying its X-band radar can peer deep into China to monitor flights and rocket launches. The U.S. says it’s a system focused on North Korea. China sees it as a threat to its own security.

Tillerson’s visit to Beijing is the final stop on his three-nation swing through Northeast Asia, which began in Japan. State Department officials have described it as a “listening tour” as the administration seeks a coherent North Korea policy, well-coordinated with its Asian partners.

In Beijing, he is also expected to discuss China’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, including its building of islands atop coral reefs, complete with airstrips and military installations.

During his confirmation hearings in January, Tillerson compared China’s island-building and deployment of military assets to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and suggesting China’s access to the island should not be allowed.

While President Donald Trump during his campaign pledged to slap 45 percent tariffs on imports from China and label the country a currency manipulator, there has been little sign of his doing either. His pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has said he would use a “multi-faceted approach” to cracking down on Chinese trade abuses.

Tillerson’s trip is also expected to highlight the Trump administration’s lack of concern with human rights abroad, formerly a key element of U.S. policy toward China and a major irritant for Beijing.

In a departure from past practice, Tillerson skipped the launch of an annual report on human rights last week that cited numerous abuses by China. He has also said the U.S. would not continue participating in the U.N. Human Rights Council unless it undergoes “considerable reform.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

China is embroiled in an internal political struggle

Xi JinpingChina’s Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping reads at the Great Hall of the People during the third plenary session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

China’s problems are not entirely external and are not limited to the new Trump administration. China is now embroiled in an internal political struggle around the efforts of President Xi to make himself the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

In reaction to the excesses of the Mao era — including the disastrous Great Leap Forward, which caused famine in the 1950s, and the destructive Cultural Revolution of 1966–76 — China developed a new model of collective leadership under Deng Xiaoping beginning in the 1980s.

Deng himself was never president; he held a series of lesser posts. However, he was the architect of the current presidential system and was regarded as China’s “paramount leader” from 1978 to 1987. Deng held what the Chinese call the “Mandate of Heaven,” a quasi-religious concept that has bestowed legitimacy on Chinese emperors for over 3,000 years.

The new model still had a single leader, but the leader was chosen by consensus among the Central Committee members of the Communist Party. Each leader was elected to a five-year term (in rigged elections), and was permitted to serve a second five-year term (some did so, some did not).

Importantly, at the beginning of a leader’s second five-year term, he would designate one or two likely successors. Those designated successors would then jockey for position among the Central Committee members. Slowly a consensus would emerge around one figure. That individual would then be selected as president at the end of the current president’s second term.

This system ran like clockwork through the presidential terms of Li Xiannian (1983–1988), Yang Shangkun (1988–1993), Jiang Zemin (1993–2003), Hu Jintao (2003–2013), and so far in the first term of Xi Jinping (2013–2018).

President Xi’s first five-year term expires in March 2018. He is certain to be elected to a second term, but he has so far deviated from the script by not designating any potential successors for a smooth transition in 2023. At a minimum, this will make Xi more powerful after 2018 because it will eliminate the lame duck factor.

Some observers fear that Xi’s real ambition is to capture a third-term running until 2028. This would be similar to Vladimir Putin’s gymnastics in Russia where he has used various means to hold power since 2000 and is expected to remain in power at least through 2020.

Xi has also pursued an “anti-corruption campaign” that has conveniently resulted in the arrest of two of his most powerful rivals, Bo Xilai, the highly ambitious former mayor of Chongqing, and Zhou Yongkang, the head of China’s internal security apparatus. This pattern also mimics Putin’s Russia where corruption is tolerated as long as it is for personal enrichment, and does not transmute into geopolitics of political power. Those who aspire to power are brought down and arrested by the leadership.

The question of whether Xi will disrupt the two-term system and seek a third term is open for now. Xi’s actions could provoke a backlash that will cause him to lose the Mandate of Heaven. At a minimum, the political uncertainty resulting from Xi’s moves makes policy responses to Trump’s provocations more difficult to predict. Policymakers are likely to make political rather than economic calculations in their decision-making. Economic policy optimization will suffer as a result.

China also suffers from a host of internal contradictions to its global economic ambitions. Internet censorship, which I experienced first-hand during my recent visit, maintains Communist control in the short-run but stifles the creative exchange of ideas crucial to technological advances. (The internet was originally invented by the Pentagon not as a news or social media platform, but as a way for the best thinkers to exchange ideas quickly during our Cold War rivalry with Soviet scientists.)

chinese baby

China’s one-child policy, beginning in the early 1980s, has led to two demographic disasters. The first is that growth in the working age population is now flat, which is a headwind for economic expansion. The second is that a cultural preference for male children has led to sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. This has created a gender skew of 20 million men in their twenties and thirties with no prospect for marriage. Through adverse selection by women, the unmarried men are the least attractive and least skilled.

Many of these men are being forced into military service and sent overseas to supervise mines and industrial enterprises in Africa and South America. In any case, they are ripe for anti-social behaviors and a threat to social stability.

This mix of adverse demographics, technological bottlenecks, and political intrigue are all detriments to China’s economic development under the best of circumstances. With new challenges thrown at China by the Trump administration, internal instability may act as a force multiplier to external pressure and lead to a breakdown of social order.

Geopolitics and Instability

The tensions with China around Trump’s policies on trade, tariffs, and currency manipulation are a sideshow compared to the much larger issue of Trump’s pivot to Russia.

From 1946 to 1989, geopolitics was fundamentally a matter of managing the Russia-U.S. condominium of world power and geopolitics. China was potentially powerful (as recognized by President Nixon in 1972), but was in fact weak, poor, isolated, and chaotic. Russia and the U.S. controlled the world. All other countries were either allies, satellites, proxies or irrelevant. Flashpoints erupted in Berlin, Cuba, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, but U.S. and Soviet troops never fired on each other. The risks of escalation to nuclear war and the end of civilization were too great.

Since 1989, a tripartite world order has emerged involving Russia, China and the U.S. The strategic goal in a three-party game is to align with one of the other parties to the detriment of the third. The U.S. played this two-against-one game well from 1989 to 2009, but has failed utterly since then.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, coupled with the liberation of Eastern Europe, the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the emergence of a democracy in Russia, all resulted in close U.S.-Russia ties, to the point that U.S. “experts” designed much of Russia’s legal and financial infrastructure.

China was the odd-man-out in the aftermath of the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. I made my first journeys to Red China during this period, in 1992 and 1993. I met almost no Americans and was under constant surveillance by internal security service “minders” posing as mandatory guides.

It was during this odd-man-out stage that China executed its first maxi-devaluation. The USD/CNY cross-rate went from 5.7 to 8.7 almost overnight in 1994. It was also during this period that China perfected the manufacturing juggernaut and transportation networks that led to its export success, massive reserve accumulation, and unprecedented economic growth.

The game changed dramatically in 2000. The U.S. pivoted away from Russia toward China. The election of Vladimir Putin in 2000 involved an assertion of Russian nationalism including territorial claims in the Russian periphery of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic Republics. Putin was reassembling the old Soviet Empire into a new Russian Empire.

chinese factoryNew York Times

Meanwhile, China manufacturing prowess and willingness to buy U.S. Treasury paper made it the ideal trading partner for the U.S. The Bush administration deftly embraced China and made Russia the odd-man-out. U.S.-Russian relations hit a low in August 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia, a U.S. ally. Bush was too preoccupied with the global financial crisis and the War in Iraq to muster much of a response.

Beginning in 2009, the Obama administration failed to notice that Russia and China were playing their own version of the three-party game with the U.S. as the odd-man-out. Russian-Chinese cooperation expanded in initiatives such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the BRICS institutions, the New Silk Road initiative, and bilateral deals on currency swaps, oil and natural gas, pipeline infrastructure, and arms sales.

Obama was lulled into complacency by Chinese purchases of Treasury debt even as China’s currency manipulation, trade subsidies, and damage to U.S. manufacturing metastasized. By 2016, U.S. relations with Russia were at a post-Cold War low, while relations with China were on a downward trajectory. Russia and China had never been closer since the mid-1950s. The U.S. was the new loser in the three-party game.

With the rise of Donald Trump, the U.S. is back in the game, this time with the promise of much closer relations with Russia and confrontation with China. Putin seems willing to pursue this round with his new best friend Donald Trump. China is beginning to feel the chill of once again being the odd-man-out.

Russia and the U.S. are the two largest energy producers in the world. With cooperation from Saudi Arabia, they can dictate the global price of energy. The appointment of Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, as Trump’s Secretary of State puts the use of the energy weapon in deft hands. China will be pressured for cooperation on issues such as the South China Sea, North Korea’s nuclear program, and Taiwan relations.

As is the case regarding concessions on trade and the currency, China is being asked to make concessions it cannot give. Beijing regards Taiwan as an integral part of China, a temporary “breakaway province,” not a separate political entity. China’s position on Taiwan is existential and non-negotiable.

China likewise has little room for concessions on its claim of near-complete control of the South China Sea. That arm of the Pacific Ocean is rich in fish that China needs to feed its people. China is unwilling to share the catch with Vietnam and the Philippines. Numerous boardings, collisions, and seizures have happened already. A greater armed confrontation there is just a matter of time.

China could help with regard to North Korea’s nuclear program. China has many transportation, banking, and food chokepoints it could use to stop North Korea’s bad behavior. The problem is China fears North Korea will retaliate by opening its border with China and allowing millions of desperate North Korean citizens to flood into China as destitute refugees. The result would be social and economic destabilization in Manchuria, a part of China already suffering from its rust belt status.

Given a revival of the Russian-U.S. condominium of power on friendly terms, and China’s inability to deliver concessions demanded by Trump, the prospect for U.S.-China geopolitical relations is poor.

This will only worsen the already deteriorating economic relations between the two largest economies in the world.

Thank you for reading the Daily Reckoning,

Read the original article on The Daily Reckoning. Copyright 2017.

China tests new extremely long-range missile that could muscle the US out of the South China Sea

Alex Lockie
Business InsiderJanuary 26, 2017
China long range missile J-11b
China long range missile J-11b
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(Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US.dafeng cao via Twitter)
Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.

As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.

“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.

According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”

The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.

E-2 Advanced Hawkeye
E-2 Advanced Hawkeye
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(US Navy E-3 Hawkeye’s fly above Japan’s Mt. Fuji.Lt. J.G. Andrew Leatherwood/US Navy)

This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.

In combination with China’s massive, networked array of multiphase radars across artificial, militarized islands in the South China Sea, these missiles and the coming J-20 strike aircraftshow that China has leveraged multiple technologies to side-step the US’s emerging stealth capabilities.

According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.

China air force j-11
China air force j-11
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(Older Chinese jets like the J-11s could be devastating with extremely long range missiles.Xinhuanet)

Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”

As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.

“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”

NOW WATCH: Here’s why everyone should be paying attention to China’s ambitious space program

More From Business Insider

China hits back at US over South China Sea claims

This aerial view of the city of Sansha on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, which China now considers part of Hainan province on July 27, 2012Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionChina is one of a number of countries who lay claim to parts of the South China Sea

China has asserted its “indisputable sovereignty” over parts of the South China Sea after the Trump administration vowed to prevent China from taking territory in the region.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing would “remain firm to defend its rights in the region”.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday the US would “make sure we protect our interests there”.

Barack Obama’s administration refused to take sides in the dispute.

It did, however, send B-52 bombers and a naval destroyer last year, and the then US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out over what he called “an increase of militarisation from one kind or another” in the region.

Several nations claim territory in the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also an important shipping route.

Read more:

The new US president has taken a tough stance against China, and Mr Spicer told reporters “the US is going to make sure we protect our interests” in the South China Sea.

“If those islands are, in fact, in international waters and not part of China proper, yeah, we’ll make sure we defend international interests from being taken over by another country,” he said, without giving further details.

The Chinese government responded by saying that the US was “not a party to the South China Sea issue”.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China was “committed to peaceful negotiations with all countries concerned” in the dispute, and said it “respects the principles of freedom of navigation and over-flight in international waters”.

But, she went on: “Our position is clear. Our actions have been lawful.”

‘Devastating confrontation’

Mr Spicer’s comments echo those of Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

During his nomination hearing, Mr Tillerson said the US should block access to islands being built by China in the South China Sea, likening it to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” he told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Chinese state media responded by warning that such actions would lead to a “devastating confrontation”.

line break

What is the South China Sea dispute?

Map of South China Sea

Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.

Its islets and waters are claimed in part or in whole by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Beijing has been building artificial islands on reefs and carrying out naval patrols in waters also claimed by these other nations.

Although the Obama administration insisted it was neutral, it spoke out strongly against the island-building and sought to build ties with, and among, the South East Asian nations whose claims overlap those of China.

In July an international tribunal ruled against Chinese claims, backing a case brought by the Philippines, but Beijing said it would not respect the verdict.

The frictions have sparked concern that the area is becoming a flashpoint with global consequences.

South China Sea: China media warn US over ‘confrontation’

 

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly IslandsImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionChina has built islands on reefs and, says a think-tank, is building military facilities on some

Blocking China from islands it has built in contested waters would lead to “devastating confrontation”, Chinese state media have warned.

The angry response came after secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson said the US should deny Beijing access to new islands in the South China Sea.

Two state-run papers carry editorials strongly criticising his comments.

The hawkish Global Times tabloid warned that any such action would lead to “a large-scale war”.

Beijing has been building artificial islands on reefs in waters also claimed by other nations. Images published late last year show military defences on some islands, a think-tank says.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Mr Tillerson likened China’s island-building to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

China’s official response, from foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, was muted. China had the right to conduct “normal activities” in its own territory, he said.

Asked specifically about the remark on blocking access, he said he would not respond to hypothetical questions.

‘Unrealistic fantasies’

But editorials in the China Daily and the Global Times were more direct in their comments.

The China Daily suggested Mr Tillerson’s remarks showed ignorance of Sino-US relations and diplomacy in general.

“Such remarks are not worth taking seriously because they are a mish-mash of naivety, shortsightedness, worn-out prejudices and unrealistic political fantasies,” it said.

“Should he act on them in the real world, it would be disastrous.

“As many have observed, it would set a course for devastating confrontation between China and the US. After all, how can the US deny China access to its own territories without inviting the latter’s legitimate, defensive responses?”

Map showing the South China Sea

The Global Times, a nationalist daily, suggested that Mr Tillerson’s “astonishing” comments came because “he merely wanted to curry favour from senators and increase his chances of being confirmed by intentionally showing a tough stance toward China”.

China would ensure his “rabble rousing” would not succeed, it went on.

“Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.”

The Obama administration has spoken out strongly against the island-building, pledged to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and sending navy ships to sail in contested areas.

But it has not threatened to block access to the islands, a step likely to enrage Beijing.

Mr Tillerson did not explain how the US might block access to the islands, and both Chinese papers suggested a wait-and-see policy.

“It remains to be seen to what extent his views against China will translate into US foreign policies,” the China Daily said.

Super typhoon Nina mars Christmas celebrations in the Philippines

A typhoon packing gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph) has made landfall into the eastern Philippines. The island’s power and communications have been seriously disrupted.

Philippinen Taifun Nok-Ten (Reuters/Str)

Typhoon Nina, known locally as Nock-Ten, made landfall on Catanduanes, a remote island of 250,000 inhabitants, just after 6 p.m. local time on Sunday (1000 UTC).

Nina packed sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour (114 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 255 kilometers per hour at landfall. The typhoon continued west and made a second landfall over the Camarines Sur province and weakened slightly with sustained winds at 175 kilometers per hour. Forecasters warned of coastal waves as high as 2.5 meters (eight feet) on the coast.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The typhoon has a 500-kilometer wide rain band and is expected to follow a path westwards across the main island of Luzon before passing close to the capital, Manila, on Monday.

Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Philippines, which has Asia’s largest Roman Catholic population. That made it difficult for officials to get people’s attention to heed the warnings.

Governor Miguel Villafuerte of Camarines Sur province offered roast pig, a popular Christmas delicacy locally called “lechon,” in evacuation centers to entice villagers to move to emergency shelters.

“I know it’s Christmas … but this is a legit typhoon,” Villafuerte had tweeted on Christmas Eve. “Please evacuate, we’ll be having lechon at evacuation centers.”

Philipinen - Vorbereitungen wegen Typhoon Nock-Ten (Getty Images/AFP/C. Sayat)Fishermen secured their boats in the bay of Santo Domingo

Forced evacuation

In Catanduanes province, deputy Governor Shirley Abundo said she had ordered a forced evacuation of villagers, saying some “are really hard-headed, they don’t want to leave their houses because it’s Christmas.”

More than 200,000 fled to evacuation centers for the storm. Food, water and other emergency supplies had been pre-positioned in areas expected to be lashed by the typhoon.

About 20 typhoons and storms, mostly from the Pacific, lash the Philippines each year, making the poor country of more than 100 million people one of the most disaster-prone in the world. Seven typhoons previously struck the Philippines on Christmas Day.

cw,kbd/jm (AP, Reuters)

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Beijing and Washington discuss capture of US underwater probe in South China Sea

China’s foreign ministry has said the country is in talks with Washington following its capture of a US underwater probe. The Pentagon said it had secured an understanding for the return of the machine.

Watch video02:04

China hits back at Donald Trump

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Saturday it was in contact with US officials on the next steps to be taken following an incident earlier this week that has further heightened tensions in the region.

“According to our understanding, the US and Chinese sides are working on appropriately handling this matter through channels between the two militaries,” the ministry said in an email sent to multiple news organizations.

Later on Saturday, the Pentagon said that after “direct engagement with Chinese authorities” it had “secured an understanding” that China would return the seized underwater drone, according to the Reuters news agency.

The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon when China intercepted the underwater drone, which the Pentagon said was collecting unclassified scientific data, after the USNS Bowditch (pictured above) stopped to collect it in waters near the Philippines.

China Aussenminister Wang Yi (Reuters/J. Lee)Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The ministry says China is working with the US on the matter

The US has maintained that the drone was unlawfully seized and has called on Beijing to return it. “It is ours. It’s clearly marked as ours. We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said. He added that it could be the first time in recent history that China has seized a US naval vessel.

The Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, quoted an official as saying that the situation was expected to be resolved shortly. “China has received the US request to return the device, communication is open between the relevant departments of the two sides and I believe this matter will obtain a smooth resolution,” the official told the newspaper.

Südchinesisches Meer Insel Mischief Reef (Reuters/U.S. Navy)China’s has raised concerns with its militarization of several shoals and islands in the South China Sea, such as the Spratly Islands

Fears of conflict

The incident came shortly after US President-elect Donald Trump raised alarm bells when he announced that he had spoken with the president of Taiwan over the phone in a notable break from presidential protocol. The US has maintained a “one-China” policy toward Taiwan, which Beijing considers its territory.

Not long after the announcement that China had seized the underwater drone, Trump tweeted his outrage over the incident while also provoking laughs on social media for his spelling of “unprecedented” as “unpresidented.” He later deleted that tweet and replaced it with a corrected version.

China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.

Trump’s more aggressive stance toward China – when he indicated that he did not feel “bound by a one-China policy” – has raised concerns that the incoming president could provoke a conflict with Beijing.

US-China relations have also been strained because of Beijing’s growing military presence in the South China Sea.

blc/jm (AP, dpa)

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