China 'seizes US vessel' in S China Sea

USNS BowditchImage copyright
US Navy

Image caption

The USNS Bowditch was in the region to conduct research, officials say.

The US has issued a formal request to China to deliver an unmanned underwater drone that was seized in international waters, US officials say.

The Chinese navy seized the US underwater research vessel in the South China Sea on Thursday, the US alleges.

The incident took place just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve it.

The device, dubbed a “naval glider”, was used to test water salinity and temperature, officials say.

The data was part of an unclassified programme to map underwater channels, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It was taken” by China, a US official told the media.

“The UUV [unmanned underwater vehicle] was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” the official said.

“It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was US property.”

The unnamed official added that the encounter occurred about 50 miles (80km) northwest of Subic Bay in the South China Sea.

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