President-elect Trump accused China of stealing after the Pentagon reported Friday that the Chinese Navy snatched a U.S. Navy underwater drone this week in international waters in the South China Sea as U.S. researchers watched.

“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented [sic] act,” Trump tweeted early Saturday morning.

He later deleted the tweet and sent it out again with the correct spelling for “unprecedented.”

The warship took the unmanned underwater vehicle on Thursday about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, the Philippines, just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve it, Capt. Jeff Davis said Friday.

The Bowditch had stopped to recover two “ocean glider” unmanned underwater vehicles when a Chinese ASR-510 Dalang III-class ship came within 500 yards of Bowditch, put a small boat in the water and picked up one of the drones. The Americans demanded it back over bridge-to-bridge radio. China acknowledged the radio communications, proving there were no technical issues with the radio, but ignored the request, Davis said.

The Bowditch is a civilian-manned Navy ship. The ocean glider is “completely unclassified,” Davis said, and collects information like salinity, water temperature and clarity of the water in the ocean.

The State Department later filed an official demarche with China.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain blamed the “fragrant violation of the freedom of the seas” on the Obama administration for failing to provide a strong stance in the face of such provacative behavior.

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“This brazen provocation fits a pattern of increasingly destabilizing Chinese behavior, including bullying its neighbors and militarizing the South China Sea,” McCain, R-Ariz., said Friday. “And this behavior will continue until it is met with a strong and determined U.S. response, which until now the Obama administration has failed to provide. Freedom of the seas and the principles of the rules-based order are not self-enforcing. American leadership is required in their defense. But that leadership has been sorely lacking.”

Jacqueline Klimas and Susan Ferrechio contributed to this report

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