On Thursday, USNS Bowditch, a US oceanographic vessel, stopped some 100 miles off the port at Subic Bay in the Philippines to pick up two drones when a Chinese vessel captured one of them, according to US defense officials. The US Department of Defense demanded the return of the drone.
"The Chinese side has made a decision to transfer it [to the US side] in a due manner," spokesman Yang Yujun was quoted as saying by the ministry.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook confirmed the information, saying that the US side had "secured an understanding" that Beijing would return the drone to the United States.
Earlier in the day, US President-elect Donald Trump said that China "stole" the drone in what he described as an "unprecedented act."
The interests of China and the United States clash in the South China Sea region, with China and the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam putting forth competing territorial claims. The US Navy continues patrols in the area despite Chinese protests.