In what an analyst sees as practically an act of war against the U.S., a Chinese Navy ship stole an American underwater research drone in the international waters located in the South China Sea area being contested by China and U.S. ally the Philippines. The Pentagon says this happened on Thursday at noon local time, approximately 40 miles west of the Philippines and about 150 miles from Scarborough Shoal. The U.S. Bowditch, an oceanographic research vessel had deployed the drone as part of a survey mission intended to collect data on ocean and weather patterns, according to U.S. officials.
The Chinese ship, for several days, had been shadowing the American ship USNS Bowditch which deployed the drone, a Slocum Glider. The Bowditch's crew watched the Chinese take the drone away from a short distance. The Americans tried to ask for the drone back but the request was ignored and instead the Chinese vessel took off. The Chinese snatching of the drone prompted the State Department to file for a demarche, a formal diplomatic protest, asking the drone to be returned to the U.S. The U.S. ambassador in Beijing delivered the demarche to the Chinese government on Friday. There has been no response from the China side at this time.
The drone is worth approximately $150,000. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has issued a statement calling upon China to return the unmanned underwater vehicle of the U.S.immediately and to comply with all of its obligation under international law.
Gordon Chang, analyst and author of " The Coming Collapse of China" opined in a Fox News interview that the Chinese move is practically an act of war because U.S. military property was stolen.
The Washington think tank The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported on Wednesday that China has set up anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attacks on all seven of its man-made islands in the area of vital, strategic navigation importance.
This is not the first time that the U.S. and China have clashed on the South China Sea which both China and the Philippines are claiming portions of. The Philippines brought its claim of the contested area to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration where the said international court ruled unanimously in favor of the Philippines in July when it declared that China has no legal rights to the area. China has always said it will not honor the ruling.
President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to take a more hardline approach to China. Tensions between U.S. and China have heightened lately since the phone call between Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on December 2. China has been displeased with the call, insisted on the " One-China" policy and has made threats along the way. The Chinese media have been heavily criticizing Trump the past weeks, and Trump has been giving his own strong statements against China.