The mostly verbal conflict that the U.S has had with China may have just escalated to an all time high. The Pentagon has announced today that a Chinese warship has stolen a U.S Navy underwater drone and they are demanding its return.
“We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary said in a statement.
The underwater vehicle was unmanned and located about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines. Around the time the vehicle was stolen, the USNS Bowditch, which is an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve the drone, according to Captain Jeff Davis.
On their way to retrieve the underwater drone, the Bowditch made a stopped to recover two “ocean glider” unmanned underwater vehicles when a Chinese ASR-510 Dalang III- class ship came within a 500-yard radius of the Bowditch. The warship then took one of the drones. Navy officials demanded the return of the drone over the bridge-to-bridge radio. While the Chinese acknowledged their request, they made no attempt to return the vehicle.
“The only thing they said after they were sailing off into the distance is
we are returning to normal operations,” Davis said.
It is commonplace that research drones are followed in case they are spying or collecting intelligence information. However, according to officials, the vehicle that was obtained by the Chinese warship was merely checking water conditions and taking measurements. Could this incident be an act or war? It would seem a bit strange for the Chinese to randomly take an underwater vehicle without having some sort of intention behind their actions, but we will have to see what takes place in the coming days.