An underwater drone belonging to the United States was seized by a Chinese warship in the South China Sea on Friday. The U.S. government is now formally taking action to demand the return of the drone, which was deployed by a U.S. oceanographic vessel.
The unmanned, underwater vehicle (UUV) was just about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch, which was only about 500 meters (yards) away from the drone when it was taken by the Chinese.
“The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” one official said.
“It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was U.S. property.”
The Pentagon held a news briefing on Friday afternoon where they confirmed that the UUV had indeed been seized by China. They added that the drone has a $150,000 price tag. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said the situation is being taken very seriously as the Chinese have effectively stolen U.S. property.
“It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again,” Davis said.
According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow in the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, China is going to have a hell of a time explaining their actions.
“This move, if accurately reported, is highly escalatory, and it is hard to see how Beijing will justify it legally,” Rapp-Hooper said.
Officials said the Bowditch was close enough to watch as the Chinese snatched the drone out of the water and used bridge-to-bridge communications to demand its return. However, the request was completely ignored.
“The only thing they said after they were sailing off into the distance was: “we are returning to normal operations,” Davis said.
The U.S. is currently taking actions to make it clear that we want our shit back. Now. The Huffington Post reports:
“The United States issued the formal demarche, as such protests are known, through diplomatic channels and included a demand that China immediately return the drone. The Chinese acknowledged it but have not responded, officials said.”
The seizure of the UUV comes amid rising tensions between China and the U.S. following Donald Trump’s decision to chat up the president of Taiwan and thumb his nose at the “One China Policy.” The president-elect is doing all he can to kick off WWIII before he even takes office.
Featured image via Wikimedia