Washington (Reuters): US officials claimed that a Chinese warship has seized an underwater US drone deployed to survey oceanographic ship in the South China Sea , triggering a formal diplomatic protest and a demand for its return.
US officials said that the drone was taken by Chinese warship, the first seizure of its kind in recent memory, about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay off the Philippines just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).
The official said "It's a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water - that it was U.S. property."
The Pentagon confirmed the incident at a news briefing and said the drone used commercially available technology and sold for about $150,000.
Still, the Pentagon viewed China 's seizure seriously since it had effectively taken U.S. military property.
Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said, "It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again."
Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the seizure "a remarkably brazen violation of international law."
U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus cited a "growing China " as one of the reasons that the Navy needed to expand its fleet to 355 ships, including 12 carriers, 104 large surface combatants, 38 amphibious ships and 66 submarines.