Pentagon demands China return U.S. underwater drone

Pentagon demands China return U.S. underwater drone

A Chinese Navy warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in worldwide waters in the South China Sea, triggering a formal diplomatic protest from the U.S. and a demand for its return, a USA defence official said.

As the Chinese ship left with the drone, the Pentagon said, its only radio response to the USA vessel was, "We are returning to normal operations". If Trump tries to change Taiwan's status, China, might well "offer support, even military assistance to US foes", it said.

Such data can help inform US military sonar data, since sound is affected by such factors.

The Chinese Embassy said it had no immediate comment. The U.S. has repeatedly discouraged China's actions, estimating the territorial claims have added up to an additional 3,200 acres of land over the last three years. -China relations. China issued a strong condemnation of President-elect Donald Trump this week after he hinted his administration might be open to reevaluating four decades of USA policy toward China and Taiwan, which China regards as a rogue province. To the neighboring countries whose territories China has usurped, the column urges, "Stability and cooperation in the South China Sea can be achieved without interference from external countries". It includes the development and militarization of man-made shoals and islands aimed at extending China's reach into the Pacific region.

The USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) and the UUV - an unclassified "ocean glider" system used around the world to gather military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, and sound speed - were conducting routine operations in accordance with worldwide law about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines, when a Chinese Navy PRC DALANG III-Class ship (ASR-510) launched a small boat and retrieved the UUV, he said. At that point a Chinese naval ship that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat into the water.

The Bowditch made radio contact with the Chinese ship to demand its immediate return but were "ignored". The U.S. issued a so-called diplomatic demarche, or formal complaint, overnight.

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The drone was part of an unclassified program to collect oceanographic data including salinity, temperature and clarity of the water, the US official added. "We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again", Davis told reporters.

Davis said the seized vessel is off-the-shelf technology that is commercially available for about $150,000.

Davis said the USNS Bowditch, which is not a combat ship, was stopped in global waters Thursday afternoon when the Chinese ship approached. The American ship, the USNS Bowditch, had stopped to pick up two underwater drones.

Meanwhile, China's first aircraft carrier has conducted live-fire drills for the first time, the defence ministry has said. Unlike aerial drones, which are remotely controlled using Global Positioning System signals and data links, robotic submarines are not able to receive satellite commands as they scour the ocean floor, sometimes for up to several months at a time.

Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the seizure of the glider occurred inside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, not China, and appeared to be a violation of international law. After those comments, Chinese government spokesman An Fengshan said breaching the one-China principle "will seriously affect peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait", and undermine relations between Beijing and Washington.

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