The diplomatic and military friction over China’s attempts to create sovereign waters in the South China Sea escalated yesterday with the seizure of an unmanned drone from an American ship, which became public within the last hour or so.
The U.S. is insistant that the USNS Bowditch, a US Navy oceanographic survey ship (T-AGS-62), was conducting routine scientific research in international waters off of the Philippines.
When the crew attempted to bring it back to the ship along with another unmanned drone in use, a ship from the Chinese navy seized one of the drones and refused to acknowledge communications with the Bowditch.
This isn’t the only provocation this week from China in the area. They installed weapons on their man-made islands in the South China Sea to back up their claims of sovereignty over the trade routes.
As of the moment, the Obama administration has filed a formal démarche with China, demanding the return of the drone.
The point of this exercise isn’t really to check out our underwater drone technology. It’s to scare off the US Navy from challenging China’s invention of sovereignty in the South China Sea. That might have been why the Bowditch was out there, in spite of the benign description offered by the Navy.
The mission of this class of ships is to “Support worldwide oceanography programs, including performing acoustical, biological, physical and geophysical surveys.”
The US Navy would certainly be interested in the “physical and geophysical” aspects of these islands, especially in regard to their illegitimate creation. That’s probably what the Chinese thought, anyway, and wanted to send a message like “fuck off” in response.
It could also be a response to Donald Trump’s opening to Taiwan, but this appears more of a direct statement about China’s ambitions in the South China Sea.