A Chinese warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in global waters in the South China Sea– setting off an US protest and demand for its return, authorities stated.
The incident occurred Thursday northwest of Subic Bay off the Philippines as the US Navy ship USNS Bowditch– which has a civilian team– was about obtain the unmanned, underwater vehicle.
The drone belonged to an unclassified program to gather oceanographic data, including salinity, temperature level and other scientific points used for sonar operations, an US official stated.
“The UUV was legally conducting a military study in the waters of the South China Sea,” the official said. “It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be eliminated from the water– that it was US property.”
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, stated the United States provided a formal complaint however he was uninformed of any action. He said this might be the first time in history that China has seized an US marine vessel.
The Bowditch had already recovered another drone and was 500 yards from the seized device when a Chinese Dalang III-class vessel got it.
The Chinese ship recognized a radio call from the Bowditch however did not react to the US demands, Davis informed.
“The only thing they said after they were cruising off into the range was, ‘We are returning to regular operations,'” he said. No shots were fired, he included.
The Pentagon stated the 10-foot-long drone used commercially available innovation and sold for about $150,000, however it stressed that China had seized US military property.
Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated the seizure took place in the exclusive financial zone of the Philippines, not China, and seemed an offense of global law.
The Chinese action increased United States concerns about the country’s strategies in the contested sea– including its militarization of maritime stations.
An American think-tank reported recently that new satellite images revealed that China has set up weapons– including anti-aircraft and anti- missile systems– on all 7 artificial islands it has integrated in the sea.
The incident follows President-elect Donald Trump that he has questioned the United States’ “one China” diplomacy, in which formal relations are kept with Beijing and not Taiwan.