“The drone was immediately destroyed,” Trump said, adding that unmanned aircraft threatened the safety of the American ship and its crew, and called on other countries to condemn Iran and protect their own ships.
He said: “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”
The Pentagon said in a statement that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, had taken “defensive action” against a drone, but did not mention whether the aircraft was Iranian.
The chief Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said in a written statement: “A fixed-wing unmanned aerial system approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”
The statement also omitted any reference to how the drone was brought down, but CNN reported it was done by electronic jamming, rather than gunfire.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to the UN in New York, told reporters: “We have no information about losing a drone.”
Tensions in the Gulf region are high in the wake of Trump’s decision in May last year to pull out of a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and impose an oil and banking embargo on Iran. There has been a sharp increase in incidents in the Gulf, exacerbating worries about the US and Iran stumbling into war.
Iran recently shot down a US drone that it said was flying over Iranian waters. Trump called off a planned retaliatory missile strike at the last minute. Zarif said the two countries had been “a few minutes away” from conflict.
He said: “I believe President Trump exercised prudence by not agreeing to the suggestions that were made to him to retaliate because in my view… he received information that no war with Iran would be a short war.”
Earlier on Thursday, Iran said its Revolutionary Guard had seized a foreign-owned vessel and its crew of 12 for allegedly smuggling oil out of the country, and hours later released video showing the vessel to be a United Arab Emirates-based ship that had vanished in Iranian waters over the weekend.
Zarif said the ship was relatively small and seized as part of routine policing against maritime smuggling.