On Thursday, USNS Bowditch, a US oceanographic vessel, stopped some 100 miles off the port at Subic Bay in the Philippines to pick up two drones when a Chinese vessel captured one of them, according to US defense officials. The US Department of Defense urged to immediately return the drone, calling the capture illegal.
"China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act," Trump said on Twitter.
China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 17 декабря 2016 г.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said that the Chinese warship located unknown equipment in the international waters of the South China Sea and, in order to avoid endangering the passing ships and their crews, the Chinese side used friend-or-foe identification, which showed that it was a US underwater drone.
The drone is not a classified piece of equipment and is used to gather data on water temperature, salinity and the speed of sound, according Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.
Washington and Beijing interests clash in the South China Sea, with China and US allies, including the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, having competing territorial claims. The US Navy continues patrols in the area despite Chinese protests.