China to Trump: We don't like the word 'steal'

China fires back at President-elect who claimed its military stole an American naval drone last week.

Ben Ariel ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

China on Monday fired back against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s claim that its military stole an American naval drone last week, Bloomberg News reports.

The unmanned underwater vehicle was removed in a “responsible and professional manner" to protect shipping, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing on Monday, according to the report.

She was referring to a comment Trump made on Twitter on Saturday, in which he said that China had “stolen” the drone in an “unprecedented act,” later adding that China should keep it.

“We don’t like the word ‘steal’ -- the word is absolutely inaccurate,” Hua was quoted as having said, adding that China was still negotiating with the U.S. military about the drone’s return.

“This is just like you found a thing on the street, and you have to take a look and investigate it to see if the thing belongs to one who wants it back,” she added.

The Pentagon had confirmed a Chinese naval vessel unlawfully seized the drone Thursday while the USNS Bowditch was attempting to collect it about 50 nautical miles northwest of the Philippines’s Subic Bay.

Trump’s comments come amid tensions between him and China, which he has criticized over its policies on everything from trade policy to Taiwan.

Trump recently angered China when he spoke on the phone with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking an American policy of 37 years of adhering to the "one China" principle and considering Taiwan to be part of the Chinese mainland.

He later lashed out at China on Twitter, accusing Beijing of currency manipulation and flexing its military might in the South China Sea.

On Monday, Hua suggested the China was holding fire in responding to Trump’s tweets until he takes office.

“Our focus is the U.S. administration’s words, behavior and policies,” Hua said, according to Bloomberg. “Regarding the postings on Twitter made by U.S. President-elect Mr. Trump, I’ve noticed that there are lots of comments from international community already, and me, as a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, I don’t have extra comments to make.”