As The Drone Dispute Escalates, Who Will Blink First: China Or The U.S.?
The war of words between the American and Chinese governments over China's appropriation of a U.S. unmanned drone found in the Philippine Sea keeps on escalating. Beijing has already issued a statement prior to this incident that it is prepared to go on a hand-wrestling event with Washington. It was a reaction to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's statement that he would ignore the traditional 'One-China' policy and as such, extend diplomatic relations to Taiwan. In recent news, it has denied Trump's allegations that their navy 'stole' the drone from the U.S. military. There seems to be no end to the exchange of innuendoes and insults, and everyone in the region watches intently to see what happens next.
According to Bloomberg, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rebutted Trump's statements by saying that the Chinese navy was "responsible and professional" in lifting the drone from the disputed waters. The Chinese government was apparently inspecting it and was negotiating with the U.S. to return it as an act of good faith. A week ago, Trump tweeted an accusation of theft against Asia's mightiest economic and military power. In reply to their offer to send the drone back to America, the President-elect said, "Keep it."
An earlier report from the Washington Post elaborates more on why the China rescue submarine did keep the drone and denied the USNS Bowditch's request to return the machine immediately. The Chinese Defense Ministry referred to US' continuing military and reconnaissance excursions into their waters, despite requests not to. The appropriation of the drone was an act to secure the safety of the nearby Chinese ships.
The maritime territory, however, where the drone was secured does not legally belong to China, but the Philippines, according to a recent ruling from a UN Tribunal. In another time, there was a greater chance that the Southeast Asian archipelago would have taken the side of its traditional ally, the U.S. But President Rodrigo Dutertes' game-changing decision to forge stronger ties with China adds a measure of unpredictability to this scenario. In the meantime, everyone is watching as two superpowers stare at each other, waiting to see who will blink first.