Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

US Says Chinese Warship Seized Navy Underwater Drone

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

US Says Chinese Warship Seized Navy Underwater Drone

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * A Chinese warship seized a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater glider that was collecting unclassified scientific data in the South China Sea, and the U.S. is demanding its return, the Pentagon said Friday.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the U.S. has issued a formal diplomatic complaint over Thursday's incident, but he was not aware of a response yet. He said this may be the first time in recent history that China has taken a U.S. naval vessel. There have been periodic incidents over the years between U.S. and Chinese military ships and aircraft.

The Chinese Embassy said it had no immediate comment. But the incident is likely to fray already tense relations between U.S. and China. Beijing was angered by President-elect Donald Trump's decision to talk by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 2 and by his later comments that he did not feel "bound by a one-China policy" regarding the status of Taiwan, unless the U.S. could gain trade or other benefits from China.

There also have been increased tensions over Beijing's ongoing military buildup in the South China Sea. It includes the development and militarization of man-made shoals and islands aimed at extending China's reach into the Pacific region.

Davis said the Bowditch, a civilian U.S. Navy oceanographic survey ship operated by the military's Sealift Command, was recovering two of the gliders about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines when the Chinese ship approached. He said the Dalang Class Chinese ship, which does rescue and recovery missions, sent out a small boat that then took one of the Navy gliders.

He said the Chinese ship acknowledged radio messages from the U.S. ship but did not respond to demands the craft be returned. The U.S. issued a so-called diplomatic demarche, or formal complaint, overnight.

The Navy drone is a glider, about 10 feet long and less than 2 feet wide that can be programmed and moves automatically through the water collecting data on temperature, salinity and other scientific facts used for sonar operations. …

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