Donald Trump slams Chinese seizure of US drone as 'unprecedented act'

The US is demanding Beijing returns the unmanned gilder and has issued a formal complaint.

Donald Trump slams Chinese seizure of US drone as 'unprecedented act'

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. | Image: Willie J. Allen Jr. AP/Press Association Images

President-elect Donald Trump has hit out at the Chinese seizure of a US underwater drone in international waters as an "unprecedented act".

The drone was collecting scientific date in the disputed South China Sea, and was one of two being recovered by a US survey ship, when it was taken by a Chinese warship, according to the Pentagon.

Trump initially referred to the act as 'unpresidented'. However, the tweet has since been deleted, with Trump amending the spelling of the word.

The US is demanding Beijing returns the unmanned gilder and has issued a formal complaint.

The drone was one of two being recovered by a US survey ship about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines when the Chinese warship approached.

The Dalang Class Chinese ship sent out a small boat which then took one of the drones, said a Pentagon spokesman.

Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters: "It is ours. It's clearly marked as ours. We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again."

He said the Chinese ship acknowledged radio messages from the US ship, but did not respond to demands that the glider be returned.

The Navy oceanographic survey ship, USNS Bowditch which is armed, was stopped in the water when the Chinese ship approached and the vessels were about 500 metres apart.

Captain Davis said no shots were fired, and as the Chinese ship left with the drone its only radio response to the US vessel was: "We are returning to normal operations."