Donald Trump has tossed himself into a diplomatic dispute he clearly finds more concerning than mounting evidence of Russian cyberattacks that authorities believe was meant to sway the presidential election ― something he’s spent weeks denying.
In a post to Twitter on Saturday, the president-elect slammed China for its seizure of a U.S. underwater drone in the South China Sea two days earlier.
“China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act,” he wrote, misspelling “unprecedented.”
The post was later deleted and replaced with one in which he spelled the word correctly, but not before social media users and even the Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account mocked the typo.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) also picked up on the misspelling, as he pointed out the seriousness of the situation.
Trump’s Twitter posts came shortly after China’s Foreign Ministry said the two countries were working to “appropriately handle this issue.” The ministry later warned that “hyping up” the incident would not help ensure a smooth outcome, the Guardian reports.
Earlier this month, Trump sparked controversy when he spoke by phone with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ying-wen, breaking decades of U.S. policy with China, which claims sovereignty over island. He has also questioned why the United States must be bound by the “one China” policy. A state-run Chinese newspaper called Trump “as ignorant as a child” in response.
During a press conference Friday at the White House, President Barack Obama said it’s fine for Trump to take a look at things through fresh eyes, but he warned against allowing the U.S.-China relationship to enter “into full conflict mode.”
“For China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket,” Obama said. “The idea of ‘one China’ is at the heart of their conception as a nation and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what are the consequences.”
Following Trump’s call with Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said the policy that Taiwan is part of one China is the “political basis of the China-U.S. relationship.”
Later Saturday, Trump added a twist to his position on the diplomatic dustup, saying that China should keep the drone.
“We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!” he tweeted.
This post has been updated with Trump’s Saturday night tweet that China should keep the drone.