Map, screen capture from linked post @ BBC NEWS
Update 5/22/2017 : The Drone was returned after allowing sufficient time for Chinese forensic engineering examination without a lot of protest over our being in China's claimed sovereign waters. After all, as the chart indicates above, we were barely a rifle shot off of the Philippine beach and hundreds of sea miles from China.
Latest Update: China now says it will return the Drone and complains of American "Hyping of the incident". The Chinese communications don't mention any matters of soverignity over the waters involved and read like they were simply investigating and removing what they felt was a potential hazard to navigation. This of course ignores the fact that the Chinese ship operated within 500 yards of the USNS BOWDITCH, which was retrieving identical objects, and ignored the signals and radio calls of the BOWDITCH . The last and only radio response by the Chinese ship was a terse radio announcement "Resuming normal operations" as it sped away from the scene with the drone on board. We continue to believe this was a carefully orchestrated demonstration designed to test the resolve of the United States to insist on the application of well documented international law in the South China Sea. We have no idea if the apparently quickly moderated position of China and their lame excuse was in response to the Obama Administration's publication of the U.S. protest, or the Trump tweets on the unprecedented nature of the events, or some combination of the two. Whatever it was it led them to understand that the behavior was illegal and unacceptable, and not likely to enhance their position relative to the control of South China Sea waters with the community of nations or their own coastal neighbors. So the drone is quickly returned and the United States publicly chided for "over hyping " the incident. Dragons speak with forked tongues, what did you expect?
Check out the location of the seizure of an unmanned underwater research drone depicted in the chart above. While the chart is an illustration from the BBC News Site and not a navigation chart this much is obvious, the seizure happened within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and nowhere near China's EEZ much less territorial seas. Again while stressing that the illustration is not a navigational chart, Using the illustrations scale the site of the event appears to be about 50 miles off of the nearest point of land in the Philippines, well within the internationally recognized EEZ of the Philippines and well within a number of internationally recognized customs enforcement and defensive zones of the Philippines. More aggravating still concerning this unlawful seizure by China, the drone in question belonged to a United states Navy ship and was clearly marked as such.
|USNS BOWDITCH, NAVAL RESEARCH VESSEL|
Under international law, war ships (combatants and auxiliaries) are treated as sovereign parets of the flag state's territory and immune from search and seizure. One might debate the status of a naval research vessel, byt the BOWDITCH is a US naval ship and generally her "ship's boats" should enjoy the same immunities as the ship itself. Underwater drones present something of a grey area. But this incident does illustrate China's extreme disregard of the sovereignty of the Philippines , and a willingness to push its illegal claims in the South China Sea right up a potential act of war with the United States. The amount of legal "grey" cover that the unique status of the Bowditch and an unmanned drone provide China with is so thin than only extreme confidence in the Obama Administrations determination to do nothing in the face of provocation could account for their callus disregard for International law. If the Dragon makes a similar move 50 days from now the results might be very different.
The unprecedented nature of this seizure apparently is driving the situation on both sides. While an attack on a war ship's small craft is considered a clear cut act of war under existing international law, the BOWDITCH is a Us Navy owned, largely civilian contractor manned oceanographic research vessel. The submarine drone is unmanned the situation brings up elements of international maritime law involving both "ship's boats" and submarines, complicating legal analysis by both sides. The Chinese decision to seize a US owned drone deployed from a US Navy owned vessel only 57 miles at sea from Manila in the Philippines, clearly within the Philippine's exclusive economic zone is unprecedented but not truly unexpected. The Dragon was senmding a message that it has no intention of obeying recent International Court decisions that reject the Dragon's arguments that it owns all the waters within their infamous "9 Dash Line", virtually all of the South China Sea almost to the beaches of the Philippines. Based on the UN Law of the Sea Convention which China is signatory to the Philippines is entitles to a 12 mile territorial sea and up to a 200 mile exclusive economic zone EEZ where such a seaward boundary does not intrude into a comparable region with another coastal state. Where 200 mile EEZs over lap negotiation in good faith is required to formally set the EEZ boundaries. China has publicly announced to the world that it has no intention of honoring the provisions of the treaty they signed, now that the have the naval power to bully their neighbors. The US response has been stepped up naval transits of the area. This seizure within the Philippine EEZ of a US asset was carefully designed to demonstrate their resolve. We don't think that this was a rash act by an over zealous and under controlled Chinese ship commander, but a carefully planned demonstration on an object and vessel colored by a significant amount of legal grey so as to raise US anxiety over the issue but not generate a clear cut "Act of War." If not reacted to properly eventually some Chinese ship commander will step over that line. The closing days of the Obama administration we believe were chosen because the Chinese felt certain of a weak reaction.
Well the reaction appears muted on both sides. The "incident: is "being handled military to military", meaning the US Navy and the People's Liberation Army's Navy are working it out among themselves. We bet the US gets its drone back, but the Chinese are not required to make any admissions or make any promises to avoid this illegal behavior in the future. This means the Trump administration is forced by the outgoing Obama administration to take over the South China Seas issues with the Chinese already assuming that their naval activities within other peoples national waters will be tolerated up to and including patrols and some seizures within other nations EEZ's. The first incident the Dragon engineers after Trump takes office will result, and certainly be played by the US media, China's staunch ally, as an "escalation", "dangerous belligerency" by the Trump administration. Once again we've been had by the Dragon and the American main stream media.
Below is a link to the MSN coverage of the "Navy to Navy handling" decision. Notice how many paragraphs they devote to describing Mr. Trump's occasional ( and later corrected) spelling errors in his tweets of the events. MSN misses the point entirely of Mr. trumps Twitter habit. He uses twitter and the social media to communicate over the heads of the main stream media directly with the American people who are fed up with politically correct but treasonous journalism, and quite patient with things like an occasional spelling error. Follow the link below if you want to follow the latest from the MSM:
China says 'appropriately handling' US Navy drone issue ( Associated Press Article by CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, as carried on MSN Internet site). At the same site you can watch a video on the issue from FOX News
CHINA RETURNS DRONE: http://www.vox.com/world/2016/12/20/14012922/pentagon-underwater-navy-drone-china-seized-trump-taiwan