A US drone deployed by an oceanographic vessel in the South China Sea was captured by China northwest of the Subic Bay on Thursday just before its retrieval by a US ship.
The drone, which was part of an unclassified program to collect oceanographic data in the South China Sea's international waters, was defended by US officials who said, "The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea. It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water — that it was US property."
Pentagon spokesman and Navy Captain Jeff Davis said this may be the first time in recent history China took a US naval vessel. Though the Chinese ship did acknowledge a radio call from the US ship, it did not respond.
"The only thing they said after they were sailing off into the distance was, ‘We are returning to normal operations,'" Davis said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has demanded China return the "unlawfully seized" drone.
"We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
A UUV is an unmanned underwater vehicle. READ MORE