The American oceanographic survey ship which controls the underwater drone seized by China had been spying against the Communist nation posing a threat to Chinese naval ships in the South China Sea, a state-run daily has said while claiming that such activities by the US Navy were “very rampant” in the strategic region.
“We welcome that the Chinese navy is conducting regular ‘verification and examination’ of devices dispatched by the US to collect intelligence in China’s surrounding waters in future. This should go along with US sabotage activities in China’s periphery,” an editorial posted on the web edition of the state-run Global Times daily said today.
“The US claimed that the glider was collecting unclassified data such as salinity and water temperature, which are routine operations in accordance with international law. However, this argument is absurd,” the daily said.
The Chinese military said last night that the drone seized by its naval boat would be returned “in an appropriate manner” after the US took up the issue with China, but did not give any time line.
“The USNS Bowditch (which controlled the drone) has appeared in the waters around China now and then. It caused a dispute between China and the US in the Yellow Sea in 2002. The surveillance ship has been engaged in maritime intelligence gathering, posing a long-term threat to the safety of Chinese navy vessels, especially submarines,” the editorial said.
Reports said a Chinese naval boat seized the drone before the Bowditch could retrieve it from the water.
Defending the seizure of the drone Chinese defence ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun yesterday dismissed the US allegations, insisting China had been “professional and responsible” to take the drone.
“We had to examine and verify the device in a bid to avoid any harm it might cause to the safety of navigation and personnel,” he said.
US president-elect Donald Trump has accused China of stealing the drone.
In its editorial, Global Times said “it’s well-known that the South China Sea is an important area where Chinese strategic submarines conduct activities. Intelligence gathering activities by the US Navy in the region are very rampant,” it said.
China and the US have confronted each other over US intelligence gathering in China’s periphery for a long time.
In 2001, a US Navy intelligence aircraft collided with a Chinese jet while in 2009, several Chinese fishing vessels besieged US surveillance ship USNS Impeccable, it said.
“Many people worry that the US Navy has collected too much information about China’s naval base in Hainan Island, and it may even have deployed underwater devices that can continuously send signals,” it said.