A US Navy ship downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz Thursday after its operators ignored warnings to change course, President Trump announced.
The ship, the USS Boxer, was on a routine patrol when the drone approached within 1,000 yards, he said.
“The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone which had closed into a very, very near distance, approximately 1,000 yards, ignoring multiple calls to stand down, and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew. The drone was immediately destroyed,” Trump said at the White House during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who presented the president with a 48-star flag formerly owned by a Dutch citizen that flew on a US Navy ship during the D-Day invasion.
“This was the latest of many hostile and provocative actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” he continued.
CNN reported that the unmanned craft was downed by electronic jamming.
The US, he added, “calls on all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”
Also Thursday, the US demanded Iran immediately release a vessel it seized in the Gulf, and a military commander in the region said that America would work “aggressively” to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway.
Responding to an announcement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that they had seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel, the State Department insisted Iran had to free the ship and its crew and stop harassing vessels in and around the Strait of Hormuz.
The US blames Iran for a series of attacks on shipping since mid-May in the world’s most important oil artery, accusations Tehran rejects but that have raised fears the long-time foes could stumble into war.
Iran played down the seizure of the ship, which it said was a small vessel that was smuggling oil.
“The United States strongly condemns the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with safe passage in and around the Strait of Hormuz,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
“Iran must cease this illicit activity and release the reportedly seized crew and vessel immediately.”
The Panamanian-flagged oil tanker MT Riah disappeared off trackers in Iranian territorial waters days ago.
“We do this (inspecting ships) every day. These are people who smuggle our oil,” Iran’s Press TV quoted Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying, adding that “it was a small ship used to smuggle one million liters – not one million barrels – of crude oil.”
The Guard said the impounded ship was in the area of Larak Island in the Gulf and had 12 foreign crew.