This doesn’t happen too often, or if it does, we don’t get to hear about it. But China has just seized an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that belongs to the US Navy. The submarine drone was captured by the Chinese military in the South China Sea, and the Navy wants it back.
The drone was deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters, Reuters reports, but a Chinese Navy warship still seized it. The incident took place on December 15th northwest of Subic Bay, just before the USNS Bowditch set out to retrieve the unmanned vehicle.
Other details about the incident aren’t available at this time, but the United States is officially asking for the submarine to be returned.
It’s unclear at this time what the purpose of the UUV is. An unnamed Navy source told the BBC that the vehicle was used to “test the water salinity and temperature.”
“The UUV [unmanned underwater vehicle] was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” the official said. “It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was US property.”
Whether that’s the case or not, we may never really know. But the South China Sea remains a hotly disputed region, and a cause of concern, particularly right now considering the strained relationship between the US and China.
China earlier this week said it had placed weapons on islands in the South China Sea, which could be used to repel threats. The Chinese government has been very vocal about some of incoming President Donald Trump’s campaign promises concerning the trade with China. Furthermore, Trump’s call to Taiwan’s president did not sit well with China either.
Trump has yet to tweet about this particular incident, which is his preferred means of communication with the American public.