U.S. Demands Return of Underwater Drone Seized by Chinese Warship

U.S. Demands Return of Underwater Drone Seized by Chinese Warship, by Helene Cooper.

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. …

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. …

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American officials said they were still trying to determine whether the seizure was a low-level action taken by Chinese sailors who spotted the drone — which the Pentagon said was conducting scientific research — or a strategic-level action ordered by more senior Chinese leaders to challenge the American presence in those waters. …

The Bowditch episode came after China signaled on Thursday that it had installed weapons on disputed islands in the South China Sea that it would use to repel threats. In describing the new weapons deployment, a Defense Ministry statement suggested that China was further watering down a pledge made by its president, Xi Jinping, to not militarize the islands.