Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 16, 2016

China Seized An Unmanned U.S. Navy Sub - That Was Possibly Legal

China Just Seized an Unmanned US Navy Sub

China just seized an unmanned underwater vehicle operated by the US Navy, according to reports from Reuters. The seizure occurred in the South China Sea yesterday, and the US has since demanded that the vehicle be returned.

Reuters is reporting that the vehicle was seized just northwest of the Subic Bay, shortly before the USNS Bowditch was about to pick up the unmanned vehicle.

Aside from the details of this case which do not yet know (there is a tit-for-tat ongoing between the U.S. and Chinese Navy in the South-China-Sea) the legal issue involved here could get quite complicate.

Many militaries and commercial shipping companies are working on unmanned ships. But there is no case law and no international law yet that is applicable for unmanned shipping. The Laws of the Sea and the Law of Salvage all consider, to my best knowledge, only manned shipping.

This spring I discussed this problem over lunch with some people working in commercial cargo shipping here in Hamburg. The first plans for unmanned commercial cargo liners had just come up (see pic below). They had no ready answers to the open legal questions.

Rolls-Royce sketch for future unmanned cargo ship - bigger

The Chinese can simply say: "We saw a ship or submarine that seemed to be somewhat erratic in its movements. It did not respond to direct bridge to bridge bull horn calls. No crew was seen on board. We reasonably considered it a danger to international shipping. We salvaged it. If it is yours we will give it back (after a thorough inspection) if you pay us the usual applicable salvage award."

What can the U.S. in a legally straight way respond? How will it respond?

How would a British Navy Captain react if some unannounced unmanned ship came up through the English Channel? He would probably ask: "Is that ship possibly out of control or damaged? How would I know? Is it a danger to the dense general shipping here? Should I salvage it? Should I sink it?"

What would the legal answers be?

It took centuries until all nations agreed to some common Law of the Sea. I wonder how long it will take to make that applicable for unmanned shipping. With probably millions of dollars worth of cargo on such ships the problems could soon escalate.

Is it "pirating" or "salvaging" when someone enters up and takes control of such a ship? I don't know and reading the law hasn't helped.

The Chinese were possibly well within their rights when they took control of the unmanned U.S. Navy sub. But do not expect the U.S. Navy to support that legal position. Until of course the day it captures some unmanned Chinese ship.

Posted by b on December 16, 2016 at 20:14 UTC | Permalink


It is clear that it is salvaging. If you find ship without crew and captain ON BOARD in international waters you can claim it as salvaged, regardless whether it is broken or working.

It is the same problem with AVs who is the driver and law says whoever is behind the wheel and that's why wheel is required. Software is not driving cars or boats legally.

Posted by: Kalen | Dec 16 2016 20:34 utc | 1

Yes, a lot of interesting legal ramifications to think about with all the unmanned tech being released into the world. Your comments also relate to unmanned land vehicles. The law -- especially the civil law of liability -- is going to require some pretty serious tweaking before Uber gets too much further down the road, so to speak, with its driverless cars.

In the Subic Bay case, you've got an unarmed oceanographic vessel -- the USNS Bowditch, which is not a USS or military ship -- still had control over its sea-drone in international waters. The reports I've seen say the drone was on the surface in the process of being retrieved and chinamen put a small boat over the side of their destroyer and raced out and grabbed it away from the Bowditch.

This is hardly relevant to the English Channel hypothetical you describe. A closer, more relevant analogy would be a car-jacking in the Bronx, in which case the thieves would have been seriously fucked-up. It's called the law of the street.

Posted by: Denis | Dec 16 2016 20:35 utc | 2

Here is a picture of that "ship" they just captured that gives some size perspective. Probably got caught in a fishing net. Nothing to see here move along.

Posted by: BraveNewWorld | Dec 16 2016 20:51 utc | 3

Unmanned (no captain, no crew) vehicle on the open sea belongs to the first one that finds it. Especially if it seeds sonars and opto-acoustical monitoring devices in the disputed areas.
Same happened with the W.Bush and the downed spy plane. Nothing to really worry about right now, except rhetorics.

Posted by: laserlurk | Dec 16 2016 20:52 utc | 4

So, Kalen. If the Captain and crew are away from a ship, you can claim it as salvage? I think you are going to have a real problem there, but, go ahead and show us how it is done.

Posted by: Bardi | Dec 16 2016 20:58 utc | 5

@5 only in the international waters not in ports. By the way captain always leaves a deputy or representative on board even in ports.

Posted by: Kalen | Dec 16 2016 21:02 utc | 6

not only is it unmanned, it seems incapable of holding a crew even if it needed to. i would treat it the same as a flying drone; if one of those was just wandering around unattended over a port or city they would shoot it down and ask questions never. as for the continuing whining of the US over territory, i'd say the country that is right goddamn next to the water has more of a claim than the idiot flailing "superpower" using japan and south korea as proxies from miles and miles away to bitch about something they can't own (yet).

Posted by: the pair | Dec 16 2016 21:27 utc | 7

i guess the obvious question of why the fuck it is there, will be left alone.. the snoop central exceptional nation with drones both above and below the ground are fair game for capture and etc as i see it..

Posted by: james | Dec 16 2016 21:31 utc | 8

Maybe we get a "chinese scum" too?

Keith Olbermann Loses It: US Military Will Soon Be Controlled By 'Scum' Beholden To 'Russian Scum'

Posted by: Lionsshare | Dec 16 2016 23:09 utc | 9

Well, you gotta laugh at that one. the Americans innocently mapping the acoustics of the SCS in preparation for submarine warfare against China and the cheeky chinese march up and snatch the thing from under their noses. Thanks boys, now we're of home to study this little gadget.

Posted by: Peter AU | Dec 16 2016 23:22 utc | 10

b, '[T]here is no case law and no international law yet that is applicable for unmanned shipping. ...'

Rolls-Royce imagines a future of unmanned ships

Unmanned ships are currently illegal under international law, according to Simon Bennett, a spokesman for the International Chamber of Shipping, an industry representing more than 80% of the global fleet.

... sounds unambiguous to me, but then again, what could the International Chamber of Shipping know?

Posted by: jfl | Dec 16 2016 23:42 utc | 11

PropOrNot from Bezos' Blog ...?

Pentagon: Chinese naval ship seized an unmanned U.S. underwater vehicle in South China Sea

Patrick Cronin, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at the Center for a New American Security, called the seizure “a brazen, calculated act of coercive diplomacy” and said it was intended to send a message to Trump ahead of his inauguration.

Cronin seems to be an expert on "coercive diplomacy", 'His publications include The United States and Coercive Diplomacy (U.S. Institute of Peace, 2003)' ... he wrote the book.

The U.S. Institute of Peace. War is peace. This time it's near Subic Bay, but its the same old pigs.

Posted by: jfl | Dec 17 2016 0:07 utc | 12

@9 lionshare

i never paid much attention to olbermann ... but now he's dancing at the ends of his strings, frothing at the mouth, demonstrating just how lunatic his puppeteers have made him. poor bastard. come to this.

but the attempt at this type of rant has been absent up until now ... of course i haven't been exposed to tee-rump's own roadshows, so i might be wrong there ... the scary part is not the lunatic ranting but the thunderous applause at the end ... clinton couldn't deliver, with her billions ... unlikely that more billions will be made available to olbermann to hire the requisite backdrop at this point.

i think we're going to be stuck with the trans-national corporate team ... tee-rump and tee-rex ... that we've got. monday's the day.

Posted by: jfl | Dec 17 2016 0:26 utc | 13

see what happens with this act by the chinese ... will the 'yellow peril' overtake the 'russian scum' in the lead-up to stormy monday?

they'll call it stormy monday, but tuesday's just the same. i think it will be a non-event, just as have most 'elections' by the electoral college throughout the years. electors may be made mice, they're not mad (wo)men.

Posted by: jfl | Dec 17 2016 0:33 utc | 14

yellow perils and russian scums are partner-in-crimes, one steal military hardware and the other computer data. wat obomo gonna do, wanna war? betcha they are ready - plan b.

Posted by: Jack Smith | Dec 17 2016 1:21 utc | 15

If the underwater drone was picked up by the Chinese "northwest of Subic Bay", then the question is whether it was found in international waters (which presumably would be China's position) or in Philippine waters.

If the drone was in Philippine waters, then what was it doing there in the first place and did the Americans have permission from the Duterte government to use it?

Either way, the Americans may not have a leg to stand on: if the drone was in international waters, then the Chinese can say they salvaged it and if the Americans say it was in Philippine waters, then they had better have a good explanation for its presence there to Rodrigo Duterte. If they don't, the Philippines will pivot closer to China in matters regarding defence of their sovereign territory.

Oh dear, poor US government, it never misses an opportunity to stumble into more blunders through its arrogance, does it?

Posted by: Jen | Dec 17 2016 1:43 utc | 16


Kalen.I can't find any support for your position in my mariner manuals. Among other things, the condition of the vessel needs to be determined, i.e., an unmanned vessel is not necessarily considered "abandoned" and subject to salvage.

Get the certificate.

Posted by: Bardi | Dec 17 2016 1:59 utc | 17

I apologize if this is already reported on the site:

"Michael Weis of The Daily Beast via CNN, claiming that Syrian Army was committing “mass rape” against residents of East Aleppo. His article entitled, “Women in Aleppo Choose Suicide Over Rape, Rebels Report,“ made a number of outlandish claims including:
“Activists and rebels in the besieged city say mass executions have begun and children are burned alive as Assad’s Iranian- and Russian-backed forces move in.”
Not surprisingly, aside from unnamed “UN sources”, Weiss claims to have got his information from none other than the discreditted US and UK-financed pseudo ‘NGO’ known as the White Helmets." --- (bunch of hyphens)

Why the fake news hysteria? Acc to the same story, SAA has captured 10 NATO officers in their E Aleppo headqtrs. I love it.

Posted by: Penelope | Dec 17 2016 2:58 utc | 18

Jen | Dec 16, 2016 8:43:37 PM | 16
"...if the drone was in international waters, then the Chinese can say they salvaged it'

Ho, boy, here we go with salvage again.

The Bowditch is an oceanographic survey ship. It maps the bottom of the seas, particularly after typhoons and such to determine if there have been shifts in the sea bottom, shifts in channels, etc.

It was recovering an unmanned submersible drone when the chinamen in a small boat from a destroyer that was shadowing the Bowditch hi-jacked the drone. Fortunately for the chinamen, the Bowditch is unarmed, and the reason it's unarmed is b/c it's an oceanographic vessel. This was just more routine harassment of USG ships legally operating in China's extended economic zone.

But my question is: How does one get "salvaged" out of these circumstances? Just because a vessel is floating on the surface doesn't mean it's abandoned, least of all when it's in the process of being recovered by its mother-vessel. And if it is not abandoned, then where do you get a case for "salvaged?"

I think we need to be cautious before jumping on b's salvage-theory band wagon. Here's a much more helpful Science article on this incident and the more general problem of China harassing US research ships.

Posted by: Denis | Dec 17 2016 3:53 utc | 19

I'm looking at this as a "Hey, Mister, can we have our ball back, please" story without the "please". So the Chinese will keep it until they hear the Magic Word. And since Uncle Sam never says Please, Thank You or Pardon Me, they'll never see that drone again - except on CCTV.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 17 2016 4:24 utc | 20

Sovereign-tily speaking, these are the same whining AmeriKKKans who have set up completely illegal "Assad must go" baselets inside Syria to facilitate violently overthrowing the elected Government. The Chinese won't have forgotten that 'backgrounder' on the true nature of indignant AmeriKKKan self-righteousness, or the nasty things the Yankees are saying about China's Russian friends.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 17 2016 4:49 utc | 21

Perhaps this might re-focus us on the main issue hiding just below the surface so to speak... If the robot ships are servicing robot market participants where do (or did) the humans go?

Posted by: Oddlots | Dec 17 2016 5:53 utc | 22

"It took centuries until all nations agreed to some common Law of the Sea." Actually, The United States never signed on and is not a party to the agreement.

Posted by: Bill H | Dec 17 2016 6:01 utc | 23

Denis 19

""The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea," one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity."
"Still, the Pentagon viewed China's seizure seriously since it had effectively taken U.S. military property."
"The drone was part of an unclassified program to collect oceanographic data including salinity, temperature and clarity of the water, the U.S. official added. The data can help inform U.S. military sonar data since such factors affect sound."

Essentially collecting data for submarine warfare in the SCS. The US have been rattling the wardrums for some time and now they are crying foul?

Posted by: Peter AU | Dec 17 2016 6:03 utc | 24

Dennis 19

The pseudo left Guardian portrays this as 'an aggressive move to test the incoming potus resolve' [sic]

It does has an useful snippet ,

*Sebastian Brixey-Williams of the British American Security Information Council
said: “Nuclear states are increasing anxious about unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs, or underwater drones) autonomously tracking their nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), making them vulnerable to antisubmarine warfare. This is an issue for China in particular, whose SSBN fleet is small and noisy. Though the USNS Bowditch is an oceanographic ship and may sound harmless, the kinds of data it is collecting will make Chinese submarines easier to find over time.*

This 'scientific ship' is conducting hostile snooping at China's doorstep.
Specifically,its gathering vital data prepping to anihiliate the Chinese Nuclear sub fleet, which provides the vital second strike capability in case the mailand ICBMs are taken out by a sneak murkkan first strike.

No country would allow such act of war, not least the unitedsnake.

I've been wondering whats the matter with murkkans like you, Dennis , what the fuck is your beef with those god damned 'chinamen' ?

When was the last time they pick fight at your doorstep , when ???

Posted by: denk | Dec 17 2016 7:21 utc | 25


I fully agree, actually i am quite worried about this heinous hate against russians coming out now, i mean that rant looks like pure brainwashing from a 50s propagandafilm.

Mcchartyism is coming fast..

Posted by: Lionsshare | Dec 17 2016 8:09 utc | 26

i imagine the chinese are interested to see just what are the capabilities of this drone. as well, after harry harris' mouth run, they're probably happy to flip off the us navy as well. they'll probably offer give the drone back, when they're done examining it. if the us says pretty please with sugar on top.


to tell you the truth i almost began laughing at first, the rant is such a send up. but it became apparent he was for 'real' ... though he's not an idiot, and you'd have to be an idiot to believe what he says in that rant ... and then i just looked on in horror at the state of mind of the people who wrote it for him and at his complete whorishness in delivering it. i guess that's the secret ... the nazis weren't monsters who believed in their own ridiculous spew ... they were whores. a nation of whores ... and ... is that what we've become, now finally, too?

Posted by: jfl | Dec 17 2016 9:47 utc | 27

Denis @ 19: Please explain why it is necessary for the United States navy to project power in every ocean and every sea in the world, and to do that, to send oceanographic vessels out at considerable risks to the safety of their crews into areas where they could be shot at or captured by terrorists and held for ransom.

The crew of USNS Bowditch are lucky only their drone was captured and confiscated. In other parts of the world, more than the drone would be captured.

Posted by: Jen | Dec 17 2016 11:22 utc | 28

The Chinese showed remarkable restraint, yet the US is 'up in arms', of course. Quite the contrast between the Chinese' treatment of the USNS Bowditch's drone spies and the Israeli treatment of the human spies on board the USS Liberty, though, isn't there. The US seems nearly to have apologized to the Israelis for having our ship in the path of Israeli rockets and torpedos after that attack. And to have summarily written off the lives of the 34 Americans killed by the Israelis, and the 174 they wounded. John McCain III's Admiral daddy, John McCain Jr., applied the whitewash then.

You can have a look at the USS Liberty Veterans Organization website to refresh your memory of the facts of a real attack on a US apy ship. The Liberty veterans' site's not hard to find, its listed on the ProPornOT website's list 'of Sites That Reliably Echo Russian Propaganda'. The few Americans left among those not murdered or wounded by the Israelis are now considered to be Russian spies, I surmise, just as is the President-elect of the United States, by the rabid cia/dnc/propornot 'patriots'.

I feel sure that this 'theft' of the unmanned drone by the Chinese will have greater repercussions in Washington than did the attack on the USS Liberty and the murder of 34 Americans by the Israelis. Admiral John S. McCain's Jr.'s son will no doubt be among the most outraged of all.

Posted by: jfl | Dec 17 2016 13:31 utc | 29

Obama repeated the false claim that Putin had been head of the KGB at his press conference yesterday. What's up with his repeating such a lie? Hadn't his advisers told him that he was mistaken?

Posted by: lysias | Dec 17 2016 14:15 utc | 30

There have never been drone ships, so there is no established way to handle drone ships.

The key is that the rules for one are the rules for all.

The first question is whether a drone is the territory of the nation whose flag it flies. Does it even fly a flag?

The USN is working on drone subs and on swarms of drone surface craft to do persistent antisubmarine patrols. Okay, so how would we feel about Chinese subs off Pearl Harbor or San Diego? How would the Australians feel about it in and just of Sydney Harbor?

Whatever we can do in the South China Sea, China and Russia can do anywhere else. We are using drones to be very intrusive, and they have the potential to bring intrusion to new levels by their potential for long term persistence and risk-taking.

It gets more complex when we move from warships to merchant ships. If there is no crew at all, whose ship is it? The flags of convenience are so nominal some are land-locked (Manchuria). Who will do what about a ship from Manchuria or the Marshall Islands?

Merchant ships have big, expensive accidents. When nobody is on board, who is responsible?

Yet those merchant ships are expensive. Their cargoes are expensive. Their operation is the whole point of freedom of navigation.

This is a mess. It will require new Law of the Sea to be negotiated, and some new responsibilities to be accepted, not just rights to do whatever the USN wants to do to China.

Posted by: Mark Thomason | Dec 17 2016 14:38 utc | 31

50 miles from Subic Bay;Isn't that rather far from Chinese territorial waters?I could see if it was close to their coast,and a look at the location of those disputed islands, does raise the fact they are quite far from China.I didn't realize they were closer to Vietnam and the Philippines.
Testing Trumps cojones and intentions?
Maybe this will make the Russian garbage go away,at least.

Posted by: dahoit | Dec 17 2016 15:10 utc | 32

Dont you call it 'grandstanding'?
Trump the patriot 'standing up for America like a real man'....
just ahead of the vote on Monday..
He and the Chinese playing Kabuki?

Posted by: APOL | Dec 17 2016 15:12 utc | 33

The overseas edition of The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, said on its social media account Saturday night that the Chinese capture of the drone was legal because rules about drone activities had not been clearly written. “This is the gray area,” the newspaper said. “If the U.S. military can send the drone, surely China can seize it.”
China Scolds U.S. as Standoff Over Seized Drone Intensifies

Posted by: b | Dec 17 2016 17:43 utc | 34

More from above NYT link:

The episode occurred in seas about 50 miles northwest of Subic Bay, a major port of the Philippines and a former United States Navy base, the Pentagon said. That means the Bowditch was within 200 miles of Scarborough Shoal, American analysts said.

This contradicts the first U.S. Navy report which said "near Subic Bay".
The Philippines told the U.S. to suck it up. Duterte will not start a spat with China over such a stupid U.S. play.

Posted by: b | Dec 17 2016 17:49 utc | 35

Denis | Dec 16, 2016 3:35:24 PM | 2

still had control over its sea-drone

Did they have real control? If they did, why didn't the operator make it dive again so it was beyond the reach of the Chinese? Had the Americans attached a line to it? The articles I've seen about remotely-operated unmanned vessels suggest that if it's clear that it's under the control of an operator then it's not abandoned. If it was just lying on the surface doing nothing then it's debatable that it's under the control of an operator and so can be considered abandoned. It seems to me that the American crew were sloppy in recovering the drone and paid the price. Next time they should be more careful.

Posted by: Ghostship | Dec 17 2016 19:08 utc | 36

US to sail submarine drones in South China Sea

"The idea is that if we were ever to get into a bust-up in the South China Sea, the Chinese would not know for sure what sort of capabilities the US might have," says Shawn Brimley, a former White House and Pentagon official now at the Center for a New American Security. "This might have some deterrent impact on the potential for provocative behavior."

The initial function of sub drones is expected to be surveillance, however naval planners believe there are endless potential uses. One model is what one official calls a Russian doll approach — with a mother sub or surface vessel that can then release a series of much smaller drones that could be mines or used to track subs or even launch their own missiles.

Small sub drones would be much harder to monitor using sonar systems that are designed to find large objects in deep waters. It might be possible, for instance, for a vessel to enter an enemy harbor unobserved.

all the more reason for the chinese to have plucked this little one out of the sea for inspection.

Posted by: jfl | Dec 17 2016 23:48 utc | 37

OK, well . . . the latest is: the Chinamen are giving the drone back. That didn’t take long.

Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 16, 2016 11:24:17 PM | 20
“And since Uncle Sam never says Please, Thank You or Pardon Me, they'll never see that drone again - except on CCTV.”

Your analysis is a bit sideways on this one, HW. No, the US did not say “please” and, yes, they are getting the drone back.

What actually happened was that the new president did his usual twitter-tirade over this outrage, the Chinamen pee’d their panties again, and, according to CNN, they are returning the drone. The Taiwanese are LAO.

The CNN article gives the additional detail that the Chinamen in the small boat actually pulled up alongside the Bowditch to snatch the drone. Sounds like something Greenpeace would do. So much for the salvage operation theory. My understanding is that the white-hulls are not armed, but, jeez, try to come alongside a grey-hull with a small boat and you’ll be picking .50 cal. rounds out of your butt all the way back to China.

Peter AU | Dec 17, 2016 1:03:41 AM | 24

You note the Reuters comment that the drone was collecting unclassified data. Unclassified data don’t seem to be consistent w/ “data for submarine warfare”. But even if so, what difference does it make? If the Bowditch was operating in international waters, they can collect any type of freaking data they want to. The issue here is not whether the US ship was operating legitimately. The question is whether the Chinamen stealing a drone while it is being recovered is legitimate.

“The US have been rattling the wardrums for some time and now they are crying foul?”

Au contraire. It’s those idiot Chinamen who are trying to take over the entire SCS with their fake islands and “extended economic zone” bullshit who have been “rattling the wardrums.” (Actually, I believe one rattles sabers and pounds war-drums.)

denk | Dec 17, 2016 2:21:52 AM | 25.

“No country would allow such act of war,. . .”

Dude, if you’re characterizing the Bowditch’s oceanographic surveys as “an act of war,” you either have very interesting information the rest of us don’t have or you’re totally loonytoones.

“what the fuck is your beef with those god damned 'chinamen' ?”

That is entirely disrespectful calling the Chinese “god damned ‘chinamen’.” You probably refer to the Irish as “god damned irishmen” and the English as “god damned englishmen”. Your racism is showing.

My “beef” is not with the god damned chinamen. It’s with the idiot Chinamen stealing other people’s property on the open ocean.

Dec 17, 2016 6:22:43 AM | 28

“Denis @ 19: Please explain why it is necessary for the United States navy to project power in every ocean and every sea in the world, and to do that, to send oceanographic vessels out at considerable risks to the safety of their crews into areas where they could be shot at or captured by terrorists and held for ransom.”

I don’t believe this issue is one of projecting power. The Bowditch is a white-hull – it is not a warship. It was in international water carrying out research. The South China Sea is not China’s property. It is not their territorial water, although they are trying to make it that with their phony islands projects. They are the ones who are stepping across lines. I suspect part of the Bowditch’s mission is to assert a right of navigation in those waters. Sounds legit to me.

I don’t know who makes the decisions about what boat goes where and I can only speculate as to why – but as long as the USG projects its power in international waters, I’m all for it. If China wants to operate their ships in international waters off the coast of San Diego or Miami or Bangor – great. Let them. That’s why they are called “international waters.”

Did you raise concerns about the Russian navy projecting power in the Med or English Channel last month? The reasons navies have boats is so they can go places. “Join the Navy, see the world” is what they told us back in the ‘70's.


b | Dec 17, 2016 12:43:28 PM | 34

The Chinese are claiming that b/c rules about drones have not been clearly written that it is legitimate to steal one when you see it? Oh, now that makes just a whole lot of legal sense.

Because the rules controlling driverless cars have not yet been written, then than makes it legal to steal one if you see it. [Actually, that raises an interesting issue of what car-jackers are going to do with these things. I can see in my mind a funny Dumb and Dumber scene about that.] Or because there are no rules for driverless cars, that makes it legal for one to commit a hit-and-run?

The People’s Daily article suggests to me how stupid these people really are. Their air pollution is another serious indicator.

Ghostship | Dec 17, 2016 2:08:17 PM | 36

“It seems to me that the American crew were sloppy in recovering the drone and paid the price. Next time they should be more careful.”

That may be, but I’m not sure I’d agree that there was a legitimate price for “being sloppy.” Being sloppy recovering a drone doesn’t automatically mean it becomes the property of whomever wants it.

As noted above, it’s looking like the Chinamen drew up alongside the Bowditch to snatch the drone. My guess is the Bowditch crew brought the thing to the surface a safe distance from the hull to avoid contact and then they visually directed it to within reach of the boom. Maybe they could have done a dive maneuver, but I doubt that anyone on the Bowditch was expecting these Chinese crazies to pull this stunt.

As G.W. famously said “Fool me once, shame on . . . shame on you. Fool me . . .you can’t get fooled again.”

Posted by: Denis | Dec 18 2016 1:21 utc | 38

@denis... i like how you argue all this here, but i don't agree with your conclusion/s...

lets break the language down here.. 'international waters'... 'unmanned drones', or 'unmanned ships'... i think there are shipping laws and laws connected to what takes place in international waters.. i don't believe there are laws governing unmanned drones/ships, so it is a grey area, that can't be answered easily...

however, i have to question your view here - what is the usa's purpose and why are they their? seems to me since ww2, the usa has demonstrated that 'might makes right'.. they continue to extend this ideology, flying drones in faraway countries, murdering innocent people. it doesn't make any of it right, but it seems to cultivate an attitude in some 'americans' that the usa can do whatever it fucking wants (anywhere it wants) and the consequences will only be to anyone who challenges their position by continuing to be bullied... that is how i read all this - 'more of the same -bs as usual from the usa' essentially...

where they planning on sharing 'internationally' what they wanted to get from 'international' waters? no.. that is not how private enterprise works.. the usa is a front for the mega corporations - especially the military industrial complex, with this escapade more of the same... why even bother sticking a national label on it? they certainly don't give a fuck about the ordinary american and that is demonstrated in how they look after the ordinary american.. obviously you see it differently..

Posted by: james | Dec 18 2016 1:53 utc | 39

where - were... and who exactly is being fooled or duped here, but the ordinary american schmuck who would like to support more of the same, under the guise of what? loyally to a country that has been taken over and offers next to nothing in return? i don't get it..

Posted by: james | Dec 18 2016 1:56 utc | 40


The UNCLOS is yet another 'international law' concocted by FUKUS, a shenanigan that gives UK , for example, an EEZ 10000 times of China's share. !

*The use of UNCLOS to try to delegitimise China’s claims in the South China Sea is ironic, as the main role of the 1982 Convention had been to allow the atrophied old colonial empires to use their island remnants to define vast tracts of the world’s oceans as their ‘exclusive economic zones’. The 1982 Convention had introduced a ‘revolutionary change in the law of the sea’ by adding to the previously defined 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of territorial waters, a new designation of much more extensive ‘exclusive economic zones’ (EEZ) giving rights to explore and exploit waters and seabed 200 nautical miles out from anything defined as ‘land’.

It was this new designation of EEZs that added urgency and fervour to the clash between the UK and Argentina over the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982. The combined EEZ of the Falklands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands delivers the UK rights over two million square kilometers of the South Atlantic, almost three times the EEZ of the UK itself (774,000 km2). In the Pacific, excluding the U.S. west coast, Alaska and the Aleutian Island chain, the U.S. EEZ around its other island territories amounts to 5.8m km2. Compared to these, China’s claim in the South China Sea is tiny, moreover it is not a far-flung outpost of former empire, but its own backyard.[1]

Posted by: denk | Dec 18 2016 3:14 utc | 41

Denis 38

Im paraphrasing your 'chinamen' insult, you've the cheek to call me 'racist' ?

* if you’re characterizing the Bowditch’s oceanographic surveys as “an act of war*

Im quoting Sebastian Brixey-Williams of the British American Security Information Council , hardly a pro China source.
You choose to believe Reuters, an empire mouthpiece ?
You really ought to get out of your basement more sonny.

Sure enough, you couldnt produce not even one case of 'chinamen' picking fight at your doorstep.

Off hand i can list dozens of murkkans Provocations/destabilisation/assaults.

*1962 proxy war ,
*1959 Tibet riots,
*1950 attempt on Chou Englai's life,
*2008 Tibet riots,
*2009 x‌injiang bloodbath,
*1989 TAM,
*1999 bombing of Chinese embassy
*HK destabilisation,
*2014 'Asia pivot'
*terrorism against Chinese in Afpak , Stans, Africa, SEA.
2001 spy plane over Hainan,
*Serial explosions at Tianjin etc, 2014,

So what the fuck is your beef with those 'god damned chinamen', 'chinese crazies' ??

Posted by: denk | Dec 18 2016 3:24 utc | 42

dahoit 32

*50 miles from Subic Bay;Isn't that rather far from Chinese territorial waters?....................................
Testing Trumps cojones and intentions?*

You are talking exactly like the Guardian editor, who lambasts this an 'aggressive act', even tho it carries a rather inconvenient fact in that same article, as explained by Sebastian Brixey-Williams !

50 miles ?
The relevant question here is,
*WTF is usn doing 3000 miles away from home in China's backyard * ??

May be Dennis the kid would care to explain ?


Posted by: denk | Dec 18 2016 3:41 utc | 43

Posted by: Denis | Dec 17, 2016 8:21:01 PM | 38

Next time you've got nothing much to say, how about keeping it brief enough to make the first and last words visible in one screenful? It started out a bit snarky and verbose so I scrolled down to the ID of the perp and realised it wasn't going to get any better...

We're all guessing (into the wind/ a grey area?), Denis, and today anyone's guess is as good, or bad, as anyone else's. I like variety and am happy to make my contribution to a guessing game without discouraging others from letting their imagination run wild. In the 1970s, in BizWorld, it was called brainstorming, and often produced worthwhile ideas.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 18 2016 4:55 utc | 44

I wrote above:

The Chinese can simply say: "We saw a ship or submarine that seemed to be somewhat erratic in its movements. It did not respond to direct bridge to bridge bull horn calls. No crew was seen on board. We reasonably considered it a danger to international shipping. We salvaged it. If it is yours we will give it back (after a thorough inspection) if you pay us the usual applicable salvage award."

Well, well, well - is Beijing reading MoA?

WaPo: China says it seized US Navy drone to ensure safety of ships

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement late Saturday saying that a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday.

“In order to prevent this device from posing a danger to the safe navigation of passing ships and personnel, the Chinese lifeboat adopted a professional and responsible attitude in investigating and verifying the device,” Yang said.

The statement said that after confirming that the device was an American unmanned submerged device, “China decided to transfer it to the U.S. through appropriate means.”

" transfer it to the U.S. through appropriate means"

Translation: "After the salvage award has been received in our bank account no. xyz-123."

Posted by: b | Dec 18 2016 11:57 utc | 45

Mark Thompson is correct - these "drones" are persistent ASW platforms. They don't operate like traditional drones with propulsion, rather they take on water as ballast and adjust their attitude (i.e. down-angle) by shifting internal weights. As the craft sinks, it "glides" laterally. At a predetermined depth, a little water is pumped out, internal weights are shifted aft, and the craft glides to the surface some number of miles away. At that point, the craft establishes a satellite up-link and reports its GPS position. Since the craft is essentially on autopilot when it is submerged, there is always some uncertainty as to where its going to pop up. For that reason, a remote controller has to provide course corrections for the craft to reach its next way point. This is accomplished via satellite down-link. With new orders (heading and dive depth), the craft comes to the ordered course and sinks, repeating the dive & glide/surface & glide routine. One of the beauties of passive propulsion is that the craft is utterly silent. This makes it an excellent platform for passive sonar capable of detecting both surface ships and submarines. Conversely, their silence and small size makes them difficult to detect using conventional ASW sensors (acoustic and magnetic). I can understand why the Chinese are so interested.

Posted by: Ageless Yankee | Dec 18 2016 15:40 utc | 46

: b | Dec 18, 2016 6:57:22 AM | 45

". . . a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday."

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ... oh, brother, my sides hurt, too much laughing.

Yeah, that's just what happened. Out there in the middle of the SCS a Chinese "lifeboat" was just tooling around. Probably a 20' Zodiac looking for floating Chinamen who might need saving 50 mi. from land. And -- this is the good part -- lo and behold, this "lifeboat" just happened to DISCOVER a USN research glider-drone floating unattended all by itself in the middle of the sea. What a lucky DISCOVERY!! Christopher Columbus should have been so lucky. So just to be sure it didn't cause any problems in the shipping lane the nice Chinamen in the "lifeboat" decided the safe thing to do was pick the glider-drone out of the water and return it to its rightful owner, which was the "professional and responsible" thing to do.

Do you know if Yang Yujun's statement included the part about the Chinese warship shadowing the Bowditch for days, and the part about the "lifeboat" being dispatched by the warship, and the part about it pulling up alongside the Bowditch to snatch the glider-drone? Just wondering if these details were included because without them Yang Yujun's story is just horseshit. A Chinese "lifeboat" just tooling around in the SCS 50 mi from land . . . I'm gonna' start another laughing-fit.

It would be interesting to know how you determine when it's time to re-calibrate your bullshit-detector. Because if you're passing this on as anything other than a Chinese spoof report or disgusting Chinese propaganda, you seriously need to re-calibrate.

The part about the bank account . . . probably right. After all, unlike the Pueblo, a glider-drone would be too small to turn into a museum. So if you're going to hijack it might as well get some change back to buy the boys in the Zodiac a nice Chinese dinner.

Ageless Yankee | Dec 18, 2016 10:40:10 AM | 46

It's pretty amazing tech. My guess is that by repeatedly increasing/decreasing ballast the glider could move laterally indefinitely w/out surfacing. For instance, dive to 200 feet, expel ballast, rise to 50 feet, pump ballast back in, dive . . . all the while the hydrofoils would provide lateral motion.

Posted by: Denis | Dec 18 2016 19:18 utc | 47

Denis 42

Possible, but I think impractical for this sort of application. If the craft doesn't surface, it has no way of fixing its position, communicating its position, or receiving updated guidance commands. That said, it could certainly traverse long distances in multiple hops. It just needs to do the "ET phone home" thing periodically to ensure it reaches the intended destination.

Posted by: Ageless Yankee | Dec 19 2016 0:17 utc | 48

*Because the rules controlling driverless cars have not yet been written, then than makes it legal to steal one if you see it. [Actually, that raises an interesting issue of what car-jackers are going to do with these things. I can see in my mind a funny Dumb and Dumber scene about that.] Or because there are no rules for driverless cars, that makes it legal for one to commit a hit-and-run? *

You are so into 'rule of law' sonny ??

There'r clear rules on freedom of navigation for normal shipping, which your god damned USN purports to defend in SCS.

This FON thingee is enshrined in that oh so sacred UNCLOS, which your god damned uncle, Sham drafted himself but refuseed to sign !
Then he rammed it down the throat to everybody else and appointed himself the enforcer !

There's no grey area here, all black and white.

So here's my question 3,
[Im still waiting for ans to 1,2]
Show me 1 case of Chinese violation of that hallowed FON, just one.


I've thrown down this gauntlet on many forums including MOA, so far no takers!
I'd be damned if this dumb fuck can do any better,

Posted by: denk | Dec 19 2016 2:37 utc | 49

Posted by: Ageless Yankee | Dec 18, 2016 10:40:10 AM | 46

Thanks for the info on the underwater glider. The WaPo link posted by BraveNewWorld @ #3 mentioned propulsion by varying its buoyancy which was as clear as mud. According to Wiki this is accomplished by having a dedicated ballast compartment which can be filled with sea water, or evacuated, by an electrically-powered piston. At a depth of 500 - 1000 metres that's dozens of atmospheres of pressure requiring a Lot of Grunt/electrical energy for each evacuation cycle.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 19 2016 7:15 utc | 50


You didn't even read the article! Two drones were on the surface waiting for recovery, on the Philippines side of the 9-Dash Line, and the Chinese just grabbed one and ran off! That's piracy, and you can bet the Chinese will reverse-engineer that drone. Pure act of piracy, ...BUT, the drone will have data logs of its track, which are undoubtedly across the 9-dash line and circling the reef area that China is turning into a military base. So there's that. A little US espionage. So if I send a U-2 over your territory, then you seize the U-2 after it leaves your territory in international air space, whose act of war is more egregious? I would hold with Admiralty Law and state that China committed an act of piracy, and not the first, that's for damn sure! They pirate anything, and everything! A buddy of mine sold them one unit of patented technology, then saw his device for sale with a Chinese logo. I heard from an Australian that he saw a 200T Grove crane for sale in China, but when he checked the serial number with Grove, they said it was a Chinese replica. You MoA's Little Red Bookers best keep in mind the Chinese still consider you to be running dog capitalists, and their reach is longer than yours. God Save Taiwan!

Posted by: chipnik | Dec 19 2016 19:44 utc | 51

Since Dennis is going to dodge this question again,I might as well do him a favor .

China has never interfered in normal commercial shipping, not even innocent passage of military vessels.
Zero, nein, nada, zilch
The key word here is *innocent*, get this into your thick skull Dennis boy.

The only country indicted by a world court for fragrant violation of FON is none other than
the self appointed enforcer of said law in the SCS. !!!
That's right honey, the unitedsnake of murkka.


Nicaragua won a court case against unitedsnake but uncle scam showed ICC the middle finger, *try and get me, sucker !*

Is this the 'world cop' [sic] speaking or some high sea pirates ?

China should've sued uncle scam when the USN waylaid its freighter YINHE in *international water*, forced it to dock at Saudi to check for 'contraband cargoes' destined for Iran.

NOthing was found, no apologies, no compensation.
Instead, China was sternly reprimanded by the murkkan captain,
*We reserve the 'right' to conduct similar interdicting whenever we've reason to believe you'r carrying out suspicious activities*

What hubris !
But hardly surprising, coming from those who claim the 'right' to carry out 'extra judicial executions' on anyone they 'have reason to believe are terrorists'.

Even at the Guardian/Wapo , readers are increasingly challenging the official B.S.

Ironic that here at MOA,
People like Dennis boy and chipnik parrot uncle scam and the toady msm meme
that *as long as we'r on international water we can do whatever freaking shit we like* !

Hmm, sounds like that murkan captain who hijacked the YINHE eh ?

Posted by: denk | Dec 20 2016 3:33 utc | 52

Wait! Where'd they find it? Oh, in the South [b]China[/b] sea.¿ Not in the Russian sea¿¿


Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 20 2016 14:36 utc | 53

YINHE wasnt the only victim of this piracy at high sea.
Many commercial vessels suffered the same fate under the tyranny of the USN.
YOu know, the enforcer of that sacred FON drafted by the unitedsnake itself !

One fine afternoon [in the 90's I think], a Singapore cargo ship was ploughing through the waves on high sea.
Suddenly the sailors found themselves trailed by a murkkan warship, moments later several copters rose up , flew towards the cargo ship and hovered over it.
Dozens of black clad commandos slithered down the ropes onto the deck,soon the sailors were shocked to find themselves staring into the business ends of M16 assault rifles !
The leader of the pirates, er, commandos brusquely told the ship captain they were on 'terror sweep duty', ordered all the cargoes to be searched for 'contraband materials'.

After much hassles, nothing were found.
The murkkans left with a stern warning,
*These are routine checks, we'd come again if we have reason to believe you'r breaking the sanction on Iran*

See, the USN and its mouth piece Danny boy tell us they can do any freaking shit on *international water*, like hijacking manned vessels , planting mines around Nicaragua's harbor. [come and get us suckers !]

Hell, they even claim the right to 'interdict' manned isle , ever heard of Diego Garcia ?

But Danny boy gets a hissing fit when those 'crazy , stupid Chinamen' dare to interdict
an unmanned drone, bristling with state of art spy contraptions ,mucking around China's top security nuclear sub pen and mapping the terrain for anti sub warfare !

murkkan Exceptionism at its best !


Posted by: denk | Dec 21 2016 4:48 utc | 54

chipnik 51
*God Save Taiwan!*

Doc, heal thyself !

Posted by: denk | Dec 22 2016 2:29 utc | 55

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