China ‘seizes US vessel’ in S China Sea

Chidi Samuel with agency reports

The US has issued a formal request to China to deliver an unmanned underwater drone that was seized in international waters on Thursday. According to US officials, the Chinese navy seized the US underwater research vessel in the South China Sea.

The incident took occured just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve the drone.

The device, dubbed an “ocean glider”, was used to test water salinity and temperature and the data collected was part of an unclassified programme to map underwater channels, Pentagon spokesman Capt Jeff Davis told reporters.

“It was taken” by China, Capt Davis said during a press briefing on Friday.

“The UUV [unmanned underwater vehicle] was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” he added.

“It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was US property.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the device was a “sovereign immune vessel of the United States” and demanded its immediate return from China.

Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, called the seizure “a remarkably brazen violation of international law”.

Senior Republican Senator John McCain said the US should not tolerate “such outrageous conduct”, adding that “this brazen provocation fits a pattern of increasingly destabilizing Chinese behaviour, including bullying its neighbours and militarising the South China Sea”.

“This behaviour will continue until it is met with a strong and determined US response, which until now the Obama administration has failed to provide,” Mr McCain added.

China is yet to officially respond to US claims.