The Chinese Defense Ministry, on 18 December, said that it has decided to return a United States underwater drone it seized in international waters, saying Washington "hyped up" the issue.
Beijing's statement came on Saturday soon after President-elect Donald Trump weighed in on the matter, calling China's action "unprecedented."
"China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act," tweeted Trump.
"Upon confirming that the device was a US underwater drone, the Chinese side decided to transfer it to the US side in an appropriate manner," Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Sr. Col. Yang Yujun said.
He added, "China and the United States have been communicating about this process. It is inappropriate -- and unhelpful for a resolution -- that the US has unilaterally hyped up the issue. We express our regret over that."
The statement added that the US "has been frequently deploying ships and aircraft to conduct close-in surveillance and military surveys in waters facing China. China firmly opposes such acts and demands the US cease such activities. China will stay alert over relevant US activities and will take necessary measures to counter them."
The incident occurred earlier this week about 100 miles off the Philippine port at Subic Bay when the USNS Bowditch had stopped in the water to pick up two underwater drones. At that point, a Chinese naval ship that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat into the water. That small boat came up alongside and the Chinese crew took one of the drones.