U.S. Demands Return of Drone Seized by Chinese Warship
The Pentagon on Friday demanded the return of an underwater drone that was seized by China as an American crew was moving in to retrieve it. The episode threatens to increase tensions in a region already fraught with great-power rivalries.
A Chinese warship had been shadowing the Bowditch, a United States naval vessel, in the international waters of the South China Sea when the Chinese launched a small boat and snatched the unmanned underwater vehicle, the Pentagon said.
Ignoring radio demands from the Americans to return the drone, the Chinese ship sailed off.
The episode set off one of the tensest standoffs between Beijing and Washington in 15 years and occurred a day after the Chinese signaled that they had installed weapons along a string of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The seizure of the drone brought a formal protest from the United States at a time when China is extending claims over the South China Sea and is watching the United States — and its incoming president — with wariness.
The episode did not have the lifeordeath drama of the April 2001 midair collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a Navy surveillance plane that forced the Americans to make an emergency landing on Chinese territory. Acknowledging the odd nature of Chinese sailors seizing the drone close to its American mother ship, one official here likened it to watching a thief steal a wallet in broad daylight.
American officials said they were still trying to determine whether the seizure was a lowlevel action taken by Chinese sailors who spotted the drone — which the Pentagon said was conducting scientific research — or a strategiclevel action ordered by more senior Chinese leaders to challenge the American presence in those waters.
Read more at New York Times.