China seizes USA naval probe in S. China Sea: Pentagon
Dec 17 2016
The Pentagon claims that a Chinese warship seized a U.S. Navy drone in worldwide waters on Friday.
According to a USA defense official, the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic vessel, was conducting research using an underwater drone. "The UUV [unmanned underwater vehicle] was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea", the official said.
While the US says its naval operations in the region are an exercise of the right to free passage in worldwide waters, China calls the moves provocative and a challenge to its territorial claims.
The Pentagon confirmed the incident at a news briefing and said the drone used commercially available technology and sold for about $150,000. "We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under worldwide law", Cook demanded.
"It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back".
Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the seizure "a remarkably brazen violation of worldwide law". China later said the USA ship was operating illegally inside China's exclusive economic zone.
The seizure will add to concerns about China's increased military presence and aggressive posture in the disputed South China Sea, including its militarization of maritime outposts.
Trump spoke with Taiwan's president by phone earlier this month, and told Fox News he "wouldn't feel bound by a one-China policy" - the policy holding that Taiwan is part of China, which China considers essential for diplomatic relations.
China has built seven large islands in the South China Sea and put air strips and antiship and antimissile weapons on them.
"This move, if accurately reported, is highly escalatory, and it is hard to see how Beijing will justify it legally", Rapp-Hooper said.
According to CNN, the Chinese warship was following the USNS Bowditch off the coast of Subic Bay to ensure that it wasn't spying.
As they turned away, the Chinese did come up on the radio and indicated they were returning to their own operations.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the USA has issued a formal diplomatic complaint over Thursday's incident, but he was not aware of any response yet.
Davis said he could not recall another time when something like this has happened, and the Pentagon issued a statement calling on Beijing to "immediately" return the probe that it had "unlawfully seized".