Published: Sat, December 17, 2016
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

China seizes American underwater drone in South China Sea

A U.S. oceanographic vessel Thursday had its underwater drone stolen by a Chinese warship literally right in front of the eyes of the American crew, a USA defense official told CNN Friday. That small boat came up alongside and the Chinese crew took one of the drones. The Navy ship, USNS Bowditch, made radio contact with the Chinese navy ship requesting the return of the vehicle, but the request was ignored, Cook said in the statement. A Chinese naval vessel that had been shadowing the Bowditch dispatched a small boat which seized the drone.

Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the seizure "a remarkably brazen violation of worldwide law". In May, a USA military reconnaissance plan was intercepted over the South China Sea by two Chinese aircraft, and China has complained that the United States is "militarizing" the South China Sea, as NBC News noted in a report. Beijing was angered by President-elect Donald Trump's decision to talk by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on December 2, and by his later comments that he did not feel "bound by a one-China policy" regarding the status of Taiwan, unless the USA could gain trade or other benefits from China. "We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again", Davis told reporters.

The incident occured about 50 miles (80km) north-west of Subic Bay in the South China Sea.

The Chinese ship's hull number was ASR-510, the Pentagon said.

U.S. oceanographic research vessels are often followed in the water under the assumption they are spying.

Meanwhile, China's first aircraft carrier has conducted live-fire drills for the first time, the defence ministry has said. USA law requires the government to ensure that the island has the ability to defend itself and to treat all threats to it as issues of national concern. We have seen tight control by (Chinese President) Xi Jinping over the military.

"I'll be blunt in saying that the global operating system that created the Indo-Asia-Pacific economic miracle is coming under pressure from revisionist powers", he said, referring to both China and Russian Federation, and announcing that Australia would allow some of America's most advanced fighter jets to fly missions off Australian soil, in part as a disincentive to Beijing.

The One China policy, in which the United States continues to do business with Taiwan and promises to protect the island state in case of conflict, but does not recognize the Taiwanese government as a legitimate national government, has often required careful diplomatic maneuvering. In March 2001, early in the George W. Bush administration, the same hydrographic survey ship involved in Thursday's incident, USNS Bowditch, was confronted by a Chinese frigate inside China's exclusive economic zone. "We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under global law", Cook demanded.

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Maybus cited a "growing China" as one of the reasons that the Navy needed to expand its fleet to 355 ships, including 12 carriers, 104 large surface combatants, 38 amphibious ships and 66 submarines. The Impeccable returned to the area the next day, escorted by a guided-missile destroyer.

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