A Chinese Navy warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters in the South China Sea, triggering a former demarche from the United States and a demand for its return, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Friday.
The incident — the first of its kind in recent memory — took place on Dec. 15 northwest of Subic Bay just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve the unmanned, underwater vehicle (UUV), the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
This is significant. This is a Chinese PLAN vessel deliberately seizing an unmanned submersible vehicle as its mother ship, a US Navy vessel, was about to retrieve it. Short of a shooting war, this is about as serious as it gets.
This is one way to welcome Donald Trump to the White House.
It was clear during the campaign that the Chicoms were not all that happy with Trump’s rhetoric. They were, rightfully, excoriated as being a dishonest and corrupt trading partner prone to dumping products in the US and manipulating currency exchange rates in its own favor. If you’ve been paying attention none of that was news. They were also upset when Trump came out against the TPP because the TPP was a backdoor to a US trade deal the Senate would never approve. China had very favorable trade deals with all the players in the TPP, except the US, which essentially gave China greater access to US markets regardless of any trade actions imposed on China directly.
Make no mistake about it. China is an aggressive power seeking hegemony in the South China Sea. That body of water provides sea lanes to ships carrying about 100% of all the oil and natural gas used by Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, etc. In short, achieving control of the South China Sea makes US allies into Chinese client states.
China has had a program of creating artificial islands and is now in the process of arming them.
Trump’s call with the president of Taiwan seems to have convinced the Chinese that they must bring Trump to heel in short order. This seizure, like the P3 Orion incident shortly after Bush was elected, is designed to impress upon Trump and his nation security staff that the South China Sea is a Chicom lake and that the PRC is not to be trifled with.