China Has Seized a US Navy Underwater Drone in the South China Sea

The action comes on the heels of Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president.

Taiping, in the Spratly island group, South China SeaJohnson Lai/AP Photo


China has seized an unmanned underwater US Navy research vehicle in the international waters of the South China Sea, Reuters reported Friday.

The underwater drone was seized on Thursday 100 miles off the port at Subic Bay in the Philippines, according to an unnamed US official who spoke to CNN. The vessel, called a “glider,” was testing water salinity and temperature, according to the BBC. The motivation behind the alleged action by the Chinese remains unclear.

According to CNN:

[US Navy Ship] Bowditch had stopped in the water to pick up two underwater drones. At that point a Chinese naval ship that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat into the water. That small boat came up alongside and the Chinese crew took one of the drones.

China asserts territorial claims over a string of islands in the South China Sea, where it has built military-grade airstrips and other infrastructure, dredged harbors, and sometimes created artificial islands in an area rich in oil and gas resources. China’s actions are opposed by neighboring countries—Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines—which also lay claim to the islands and archipelagoes. The United States calls China’s actions in the area provocative acts of militarization.

China claims its activities are purely civilian in nature. But this week a Chinese Defense Ministry statement appeared to confirm photos showing the country had installed military weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, on the islands. In November, China flew a nuclear-capable bomber over the South China Sea, according to Fox News. That action came after President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking decades of US protocol.

This post will be updated as more details become available.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.