China has “illegally” seized an unmanned US naval probe in the international waters of the South China Sea, the Pentagon said Friday, a move that will strengthen tensions around Beijing’s military presence in the disputed area.
The underwater vehicle was taken about 50 nautical miles (90 km) northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines, Thursday night, in a non-violent incident, said Capt. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pentagon.
The event took place while civilian crew USNS Bowditch was recovering a pair of “naval gliders” that regularly collect information on water temperatures, salinity and sea clarity.
A Chinese-class submarine rescue boat Dalang-III then stopped 500 meters from Bowditch and pulled out one of the probes. The Americans hoisted the other safely on their ship.
Davis said he could not recall another time when something like this happened, and the Pentagon issued a statement calling on Beijing to “immediately” return the probe he had “seized illegally.”
The American staff “asked to go from the bridge to the bridge to leave it there,” Davis said.
Apart from a brief acknowledgment of receipt of the message, the Chinese ship did not respond.
“The only thing they said after the sail on the distance was,” We’re back to normal operations, “Davis said.
Washington made a formal request through the diplomatic channel to request the return probe.
“It’s ours, it’s clearly marked like ours, we want it to come back, and we’d like it to not happen again,” Davis said.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said China had acted illegally.
“UUV (unmanned submarine vessel) is an American sovereign immune vessel. We call on China to immediately abandon our UUV and fulfill all its obligations under international law,” Cook said in a statement. Communicated.
Davis said the seized ship is a technology available in the market that is available in the market for about $ 150,000. The data collected is unclassified and can be used to assist submarines navigate and determine sonar ranges in turbid waters.
The incident occurred as President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly exasperated Beijing, challenging long-standing US policy on Taiwan, calling Beijing a currency manipulator and threatening Chinese imports with punitive tariffs.
“It was probably a highly planned and progressive project to show that China will not take things lightly when it comes to” Trump “, said Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at the Conservative Center for the Arts, Interest.
“Beijing shows that she has the ability to respond in a time and place of her choice.”
Unless it is prepared to increase regional tensions, Washington has few options, except to request the return of the underwater vehicle.
Senior Republican Senator John McCain said the United States should not tolerate “such outrageous conduct.”
“This brazen provocation is part of an increasingly destabilizing Chinese behavior, including the intimidation of its neighbors and the militarization of the South China Sea,” McCain said.
“This behavior will continue until it is met with a strong and determined response from the United States, which so far, the Obama administration has failed to provide.”
The incident occurs amid wider tensions in the South China Sea, where China has moved to fortify its claims on the region by building tiny reefs and islets in the much larger artificial islands.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have competing claims in the South China Sea, which is laced with the busiest international trade routes.
Although the United States does not rule on allegations of sovereignty in the South China Sea, they have repeatedly emphasized that all maritime claims must be in conformity with international law.
The US military conducted several “freedom of navigation” operations in which ships and planes were passing near the sites claimed by Beijing.
Such missions have provoked angry reprimands from China, which accuses Washington of provocation and increases the risk of a military accident.
The USNS Bowditch is a research vessel and does not look like a warship.
The Chinese ship’s hull number was ASR-510, the Pentagon said.