In the latest act of aggression on the part of China on the high seas, an underwater drone belonging to the United States was stolen by a Chinese warship. According to a report on CNN, a Defense Department source said that the Chinese literally seized the drone in front of the gaze of the U.S. crew. China continues to seek sovereignty over a huge expanse of the South China Sea, challenging the claims of The Philippines and other nations, while it is building military facilities on islands that it has dredged from the sea.
Chinese war vessels have commonly shadowed U.S. warships. This time, the USNS Bowditch was cruising approximately 100 miles from the Subic Bay port of The Philippines when the hostile action took place. The Bowditch was dead in the water in order to retrieve two underwater drones that are reportedly used to conduct oceanographic survey. It was then that a Chinese warship that had been following the Bowditch dropped a small boat and crew into the water. The small craft approached the Bowditch, came alongside and the crew seized the drone.
When the American vessel contacted the Chinese ship, no answer was received on the radio. Eventually, the Chinese did report back to say that they were returning to their own operations.
So far, neither the White House nor the Pentagon have commented. The event occurred at approximately 12 noon local time on December 15.
This is the latest in a series of provocations by the Chinese since China voiced its rejection of President-elect Donald Trump’s meeting with the leader of Taiwan.
The Bowditch was joined by the USS Frank Cable, USNS Washington Chambers and the USNS Millinocket in September for exercises off the shore of The Philippines. They came as part of a war game dubbed the Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise, which involved service personnel from the U.S., Japan, and The Philippines. Other ships involved were the USS Green Bay and the USS Germantown.
About twenty-four hours after the incident, the State Department issued a complaint to the Chinese. The drone is considered the sovereign property of the United States.
Underwater drones have been developed by the U.S. Navy to spy on enemy ships on the surface and under the surface. It has even developed a drone that resembles a shark.