back to article Don't panic, friends, but the Chinese navy just nicked one of America's underwater drones

A diplomatic incident is brewing after US defense officials accused a Chinese warship of filching one of America's robotic submersibles. We're told the Seaglider underwater drone was being picked up by the USNS Bowditch in the South China Sea after it surfaced for collection. As the US naval oceanographic vessel went to …

  1. Brian Miller

    Fallout shelters are useless

    China wants to be aggressive, and a pacifist is not going to be inaugurated into the presidency. Yes, it's time for mutually assured destruction. China doesn't have the number of nukes the US does, but it has more that enough to fully collapse the nation. Trump believes in producing friction. Expect fireworks.

    1. DerekCurrie
      Unhappy

      Re: Fallout shelters are useless

      Yes, yes and yes. But what a profoundly sad commentary on the state of Homo 'sapiens sapiens'. Not so 'sapiens' IMHO.

      http://www.livescience.com/15615-homo-sapiens-change.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fallout shelters are useless

        Not sure that "sapiens" is that good a fit...

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: Fallout shelters are useless

      A fallout shelter might at least get you through the first weeks, so it's not entirely useless. They you can either take part in the rebuilding of society, or watch its glorious implosion into waring fiefdoms.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Fallout shelters are useless

        I need to go to the shops and get a bigger supply of popcorn I feel.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Brian Miller Re: Fallout shelters are useless

      ".....Trump believes in producing friction. Expect fireworks." Which is why the Chinese have committed this act of piracy whilst the toothless Obama administration is still in power. There's plenty of time for them to extract concessions, for Obama to declare another "red line" and for China to step over it to get Obama on bended knee, long before Trumpet actually gets to take over.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Brian Miller Fallout shelters are useless

        I'm expecting Obama to come out with the same strong statement he made to Putin... "Cut it out.".

    4. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Fallout shelters are useless

      To be honest the Soviet navy did exactly this sort of thing all the time, their 'oceanographic' ships or 'trawlers' constantly shadowed US fleet manoeuvres, I suspect that the Chinese just think that its a spy ship launching spy drones and doing the same.

  2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Trump Tweet: Vaporize Beijing in 20 minutes.

    Launch in 5 minutes.

    (Wow, the Register has the right icon.)

  3. 2StrokeRider

    Chinese Navy becomes pirates. Anyone surprised? Anyone??

    1. Jeffrey Nonken

      Surely they're privateers, not pirates, as they are backed by a government.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Surely they're privateers

        Private vessels with a Letter Of Marque? (Oh, the things Patrick O'Brian can teach you.)

        Nah, just a war vessel doing war-like things.

        But we asked for it back, so all is well.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Trollface

      Not as far as they are concerned

      The missing detail here is that if Chinese land reclamation projects on reefs in the China sea are accepted as part of China, the location where the drone was nicked would most likely end up in their economic zone of control as allowed by international regs.

      Now, the fact that nobody, but China has accepted said land reclamation ventures to be a part of a sovereign state is a different story.

      I am actually surprised it did not happen sooner. Out of all possible demonstrations of force it is the one which is safest for China and least likely to end up in an exchange of wet fire crackers.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Not as far as they are concerned

        "Now, the fact that nobody, but China has accepted said land reclamation ventures to be a part of a sovereign state is a different story."

        Land reclamation ventures are explicitly _excluded_ from attempts to make territorial water claims and have been for a very long time.

        In this case China's not just facing off against the USA, but everyone else in the area - who are all getting quite nervous about Trump's rather vocal statements tending towards isolationism.

        It's worth noting that the last war the PLA got itself involved in resulted in them being given a sound kicking (by Vietnam) and being sent home with their tail between their collective legs, so whilst it might sound like this is China vs USA WW3, the reality would be much more nuanced and all the bordering countries are able to put up a hell of a fight if necessary, especially if they put aside their differences and unite against a common aggressor. Bear in mind that the chinese name for SE asia roughly translates as "pacified southern provinces" and I don't think Vietnam has gotten around to forgiving China about the plunder of its forests for Admiral Zhang's fleet, with other countries holding similar long-standing grudges.

        In any case whilst this is chinese sabre rattling, the real issue isn't about the sea, it's about what's under it - oil - and lots of it. The best way to render that argument moot is to work harder on alternatives and I'm undecided if the chinese are doing this to prevent the stuff coming up (more carbon emissions) or to secure their oil future. The quandry faced by China is that a 10 foot rise in sea level means that they'll need to rehome ~400million people and that's one of the reasons they're frantically throwing so much R&D money at nuclear power research.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Trollface

          Rehoming 400 million people

          Now I know why they're building all those ghost cities!

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Not as far as they are concerned

          "I don't think Vietnam has gotten around to forgiving China about the plunder of its forests for Admiral Zhang's fleet,"

          Those voyages were at the beginning of the 15th century, that's a long memory!

          Although, according to wikipedia, Zheng He was, amongst other things, a Hui court eunuch, so I'd probably cut him a bit of slack.

        3. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Not as far as they are concerned

          "Land reclamation ventures are explicitly _excluded_ from attempts to make territorial water claims and have been for a very long time."

          Do you have a reference for that? I'd be interested in reading about that.

          But the more relevant question is, is China a signatory to any such treaty/agreement? If they aren't, then they are not bound by it.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Not as far as they are concerned

            > Do you have a reference for that? I'd be interested in reading about that.

            In most cases if an artificial island is created in international waters that is unable to sustain human habitation then it's regarded as a permanently anchored ship at sea. Up to now the vast majority of cases of such islands have been for aviation and given that aerial photos of all the sites in question consist of "a runway and not much else" I'd say they fall under this definition.

            http://nghiencuubiendong.vn/en/conferences-and-seminars-/second-international-workshop/597-the-impact-of-artificial-islands-on-territorial-disputes-over-the-sparatly-islands-by-zou-keyuan

            This isn't a case of building these islands in uncontested International waters.

            Most of the spots China's laid claim to - and starting building up are shoals and reefs on other countries' continental shelves and recognised (except by china) exclusive economic zones. In some cases these sites are extremely close to or even inside 12 mile territorial waters and that's a big a problem. In the case of the Philippines (Scarborough Shoal) they've been blockading access by fishermen and the Philippine navy to shoals within 20 miles of the shore.

            The few spots which don't match this are claimed by a number of countries as being within 200 miles of their shoreline and therefore within overlapping economic zones/territorial claims. They're _all_ a lot further than 200 miles from any recognised chinese land claims and as such chinese claims on them aren't recognised under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

            The "Pacified Southern Provinces" are unlikely to take this laying down but they've tended to rely on the USA as their guard dog. It's worth noting that the shoals in question aren't thought to have that much oil under them, but I can see them being used as jumping off points to laying claim to the large known fields which are in other countries exclusive economic zones.

            The International court of the Hague decision at http://www.pcacases.com/web/sendAttach/1503 notes that China refuses to recognise the court because they claim that the Phils agreed to negotiation and going to court isn't negotiation (but it is what you do when you've reached an impasse) - that's pretty typical bullying behaviour and whilst they may say they don't recognise the court the ramifications for a lot of other stuff are such that they will probably blink.

            In any case China has effectively recognised the court by filing arguments claiming that the court doesn't have jurisdiction on the grounds that this is a soverienty case, not a UN Law of the Sea one - the court has firmly rejected that claim.

            https://amti.csis.org/massive-island-building-and-international-law/

            https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-07-12/full-text-the-south-china-sea-ruling

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              @Alan Brown -- Re: Not as far as they are concerned

              Things are changing over there in Philippines or maybe Duarte is just blowing smoke. He's now screaming that the Americans need to get out as China is his buddy now. Chasing the US off will give the Chinese a bit more maneuvering room with the US having to be further away. Behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, perhaps?

          2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Not as far as they are concerned

            Even if they have signed, they're still not bound by it :)

        4. Voland's right hand Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Not as far as they are concerned

          PLA got itself involved in resulted in them being given a sound kicking (by Vietnam)

          Dude, do you have any ideas how many shipments of Child Toys, Cucumbers, Household Soap and Laundry Detergents did the Bulgarians deliver to Vietnam during that War on a credit line which was in fact backed up by USSR Central Bank.

          I do. I am also not surprised that China at THAT time ended up going home with the tail between the legs. T72 are nice Children Toys. So are MSTA Howitzers and Grad launches if you hook them up to proper fire control software (something the Bulgarians made a killing on - making export and supposedly dumb versions of Russian weaponry smart). Some toys you know (that was what the manifests on the ships cargo said - toys).

          We now live in different times. China of old which threw waves of people at the enemy and could be countered with tech is no longer. It has tech which is on par or better than any of its neighbors except maybe Russia itself. It now can overwhelm both technically and in sheer numbers any of the "Pacified Southern Provinces".

    3. Captain Badmouth
      Happy

      @2StrokeRider

      Anyone surprised? Anyone??

      Yes, this sort of thing is unpresidented.

  4. DerekCurrie
    Happy

    What? No Self-Destruct Mechanism?

    Oh! A *delayed* self-destruct mechanism. I get it. ;-)

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    You'll soon be able to buy them on eBay.

    1. Eddy Ito

      And like lots of things on eBay they'll be counterfeit copies originally sourced through Alibaba.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        And they will be built with cheap capacitors that turn into resistors after six months.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Doctor Syntax

      "You'll soon be able to buy them on eBay." Soon a copy will appear from Iran, who will claim it is the original work of their scientists. It will be capable of carrying a tiny limpet mine (basically a copy of an M-80 in a plastic bag tied to a fridge magnet), which the Iranians will claim gives them the capability to sink all "The Great Satan" USN vessels.

  6. Speltier

    Q-UUV

    Be careful what you grab out of the water, it might be highly exothermic.

    Well, you should have read the !DANGER! text on the bottom, clearly describing the hazards.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Q-UUV

      That would be hilarious if they had of put a torpedo warhead on it that detonates on contact, with being lifted from the water being sufficient to detonate it.

      What could they say? If the US response was "well, what do you expect when interfering with an experimental weapons system?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Q-UUV

        Is that as hilarious as if the Chinese returned it with a explosive booby trap?

  7. F111F
    Trollface

    Upon Opening:

    They read: Made in China

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Upon Opening:

      Tis a Quagaar chairot!

  8. Suricou Raven

    South China Sea

    Trump or no, this might just be their latest reminder that they claim the entire sea, and will use force to defend it.

    1. druck Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: South China Sea

      Deploy the 7th fleet.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: South China Sea

        Deploy the 7th fleet.

        They will have it for breakfast. They have a total of 100+ missile carrying vessels capable of launching their own 801/802/803 anti-ship cruise missiles and/or Russian sunburns. Between 8 and 16+ each for all of them except the corvettes which carry a paltry 4.

        ANY defense will be overwhelmed by sheer numbers (600+ missiles) even if they do not use the coastal batteries, their bombers and their fleet air arm.

        If the 7th fleet dares to go there, it (or the several lifeboats left of it) will have to be "rescued" by a nuclear strike on China mainland.

        No thanks, I do not like the end of human civilization just because someone is having a trigger happy moment. I visited USSR during Andropov days and I still remember the smell of the death in the air in those days.

        By the way, giving the Queen Elisabeth to the yanks on loan in that area is starting to sound like an "interesting idea". Something that you really need to smoke some really cool stuff for it to look rational.

        1. El_Fev

          Re: South China Sea

          How the hell did you even get a single upvote? are their morons on this site?

          The Americans will re-enforce the 7th , and come out in strength, each one of their Burke's along with the aegis cruisers will ensure that no missile attack will get through, any fucking Chinese warship in the area will be dogfood if they so much as look in their direction. ffs did you idiots learn nothing from both gulf wars. FFS the chines can't even build a carrier without nicking an old Russian one.

          They are big and brave when they know their opponent is unarmed, lets seem them try that against a fully tooled up US warship.

          1. Orv

            Something doesn't add up about that scenario

            If it really is just a "research drone," then saber-rattling about this is the equivalent of threatening to burn down a neighbor's house because he threw your frisbee on the roof.

            1. MondoMan

              Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

              More like your neighbor stealing your car rather than a frisbee. The drones cost something like $200k apiece, and are sovereign US vessels, even though unmanned.

            2. Tannin

              Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

              Nonsense. The Chinese don't own the ocean., It is not, repeat not, territorial water. The "frisbee", in this case, was being thrown in a public park, and the Chinese military simply stole it. There is no excuse in internation law for this behaviour. None.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

                Might is right eh?

                Only works for the US though.

                LOL

              2. Orv

                Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

                My point wasn't that it was OK, just that it wasn't worth threatening to start WWIII over, as some people here were advocating.

                We're also always doing this kind of stuff to assert dominance over International waters and try to get a rise out of the Chinese. It lends new meaning to the term "trolling."

            3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

              Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

              ...burn down a neighbor's house because he threw your Frisbee on the roof.

              It wouldn't be the first time.

            4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

              Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

              My guess is that the Chinese are having "fun" with the spineless wonder before he leaves office.

              1. Orv

                Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

                "My guess is that the Chinese are having "fun" with the spineless wonder before he leaves office."

                I think they're sending a message to the Cheeto that they're a sovereign country, not a campaign prop, and they won't take a trade war lying down.

                Next step would be "accidentally" delaying some export we need/want, like how they "accidentally" turn off the oil pipeline to North Korea every so often.

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: Orv Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

                  ".....Next step would be "accidentally" delaying some export we need/want...." The problem with that scenario is there is very little that China exports that cannot be found elsewhere, not even the "rare earth minerals" used in electronics. It's not the same as OPEC in 1973, the US economy won't grind to a halt if the US can't get some cheap plastic toys. Countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Mexico will happily fill any gap in the market left by a China refusal to export. China can go stick their oar in politically in other parts of the World, but that would be little more than a minor annoyance to the US.

                  On the other hand, China's new economy has made it very vulnerable to restrictions on food imports. All those Chinese factory workers that used to grow crops now want food like beef on a regular basis, and the majority of that food is coming from abroad. That's one of the reasons the Chinese are buying up farms throughout Africa - they desperately need to import food almost as badly as North Korea.

            5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: Something doesn't add up about that scenario

              Er, no. This is more like you neighbor claiming that the property line isn't where the deed says it is, but instead runs across the road, and claiming anyone driving down the road is invading the neighbors property, then grabbing a bike parked along the road claiming its not stealing because in their minds they own the road.

              If you just say "Ok, it's just a bike.", you are legitimizing the entire chain of behavior.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ El_Fev

            "are their morons on this site?" to who's morons are you referring?

            What I see is that you think that any large scale war between China and the US would benefit anyone

          3. Triggerfish

            Re: South China Sea @ El_Fev

            Gulf War

            Parking of a landmass which consist of a country who has limited manufacturing capability and infrastructure. Opposing forces basically coastal patrol boats, no real bluewater navy. Airforce consisting of mostly outclassed fighters, some modern ones, but most of the airframes a generation or two behind. Not many good pilots left due to purges.

            China though;

            Huge country, with major manufacturing resources, building aircraft with airframes at equivalent tech; Chengdu J-20, Shenyang J-31. Has a pretty large bluewater navy, 100 odd subs alone. Has a crappy aircraft carrier bought from Russians because you might as well have pilots training carrier landings while you build your own. Not short of military personnel.

            Bit of a different situation IMO.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: South China Sea

            "How the hell did you even get a single upvote? are their morons on this site?"

            Wait - you just serious ask that question, and then compare the circumstances of Iraq and China?

            Really?

            Words never uttered: "The large Iraqi navy ..."

          5. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: South China Sea

            Not to mention that the US has air force bases in Okinawa, Guam and the Phillipines that are all in range to provide land-based air support to the fleet.

          6. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: South China Sea

            "each one of their Burke's along with the aegis cruisers will ensure that no missile attack will get through"

            When an Aegis fleet can handle a dozen incoming DS21-D or DS23 waves without running out of ammunition, let me know. You can't just send out to walmart for a refill.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: South China Sea

          By the way, giving the Queen Elisabeth to the yanks on loan in that area is starting to sound like an "interesting idea".

          Shame it's not due to enter service until 2020, but then I suppose better late than never...

        3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: South China Sea

          "I visited USSR during Andropov days and I still remember the smell of the death in the air in those days."

          That was just the exhaust from all those two-stroke engines, and burning sulphur-heavy lignite in stoves and power stations without any kind of filter.

          Oh, and that mysterious disinfectant / cleansing agent that smelled like it was an accidental by-product from chemical weapons research that they used everywhere.

        4. Vic

          Re: South China Sea

          By the way, giving the Queen Elisabeth to the yanks on loan in that area is starting to sound like an "interesting idea". Something that you really need to smoke some really cool stuff for it to look rational.

          I think it's entirely rational.

          It'll be sunk almost immediately. The Yanks won't want a significant retaliation for its loss, and we don't have the military might. So it will be a show of force by the Chinese without significant chance of any vengeance attacks.

          Coincidentally, we get rid of a white elephant that's of little or no benefit to our defence, and the Yanks will pay for it. Sounds like a plan :-)

          Vic.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Vic Re: South China Sea

            ".....It'll be sunk almost immediately. The Yanks won't want a significant retaliation for its loss...." It will be sailing with plenty of US airmen and sailors on board (it will be operating US Marines jets), so it would still be seen as an attack on the US.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recon drone seized. Shocking?

    The work being done by the "civilian" drone is very much a benefit to offensive unitary operations in the South China Sea. In particular, salinity, temperature and other sub surface features are what submarines, whether Chinese, American or other use to hide in.

    Hardly an inoffensive scientific study, any more than spotlighting Russian radar defense nets via "closer border flyovers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Recon drone seized. Shocking?

      The article stated it's a military mission, not a scientific study. The problem here is that Obama (or somebody thought it would be good to collect critical military info with a non-military craft. I expect Trump will straighten that out real quick, so that next time the Chinese leaders try this, their pirate boat will experience a sudden decrease in density. Thus there won't be a next time, of this sort anyway.

      The Chinese only do this stuff because they know Obama is weak. Maybe they wanted to have one last pull of the tiger's tail before their chew-toy gets retired.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Recon drone seized. Shocking?

        Shut up you alt-right wanker! OBAMA NOT WEAK! Uhm, er, actually I heard him this morning on State Radio mumbling vague heavily-qualified threats to retaliate against Russia sometime, somehow.... lol, weak as fuck.

      2. foo_bar_baz
        Unhappy

        @Big John

        You never closed that bracket. I won't be able to sleep tonight.

      3. BitterExScientist

        Re: Recon drone seized. Shocking?

        @Big John

        Best of all China will stop talking about how the US owes them money. Wouldn't want to risk someone falling into old habits and defaulting on some debt.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't understand why during the Chinese' mishandling of the drone that it didn't suffer a catastrophic failure, killing three people who were handling it at the time?

  11. Florida1920

    "The USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) and the UUV ... were conducting routine operations"

    Right. And I'm Henry the Eighth, I am.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And I'm Henry the Eighth, I am.

      Citation, please?

      1. a pressbutton

        Re: The future... ...citation....

        ask the widow next door

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The future... ...citation....

          @ a pressbutton Well, that was just brilliant. I'm basking in your reflected glory.

  12. Sureo

    Now they have to send a Mission: Impossible team led by Tom Cruise to go in and destroy the sub. Maybe DT can make it into another reality TV show.

  13. DNTP

    Stop posting "Why didn't the US self-destruct it and kill the thieves?"

    Because then three people are dead, diplomatic relations becomes a little more strained, America suddenly looks like the villain here, and the US still doesn't get the drone back, which is, symbolically, the point on which a nation is going to lose or gain face here. It is very unlikely there is anything in the drone that is classified. There is nothing here worth irrevocably killing people over, or setting a precedent to kill people over.

    Assuming it even has a self-destruct in the first place. And honestly… even if the Chinese knew that American UUV's came standard with destructs- would that really be a deterrent? They might just be willing to expend a few troops or workers to take a chance at capturing the next one, or creating a potentially fatal incident for diplomatic capitol.

    1. arkhangelsk

      Re: Stop posting "Why didn't the US self-destruct it and kill the thieves?"

      Because the main object here is sovereignty, not economic, not getting the drone back is better on that front than it being in the hands of the Chinese.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hypocrisy and azorian....

    The yanks aren't unknown to indulge in a little piracy themselves....

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Hypocrisy and azorian....

      Citations?

      I actually am curious and would like to read about them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hypocrisy and azorian....

        Google azorian.

  15. MrsC

    And so it begins.......

  16. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Truly, the post-truth age.

    Well, this should be delightful. Trump's forces deny and shout down the truth. China's forces deny and silence the truth.

    America just started a huge acid trip. Europe is carrying too much weight and just lost the blood supply in one leg. India won't mature in time. Russia simply doesn't care. China are probably the only single force left with enough power and self control to stop the Earth's climate rebooting, and oh... they're off playing children's games, stealing other childrens' toys, and trashing their neighbour's reef systems so they can plant gigantic willy-waving edifices.

    "He started it!". "I saw it first!". "No you didn't!/Yes I did!". "Finders keepers, losers weepers!".

    Frankly, nuclear war may cause *less* long term damage to humanity's future than this lot.

    1. Tannin

      Re: Truly, the post-truth age.

      Just so. A cleansing dose of nuclear winter would rebalance the climate, and with any luck, all the bombs would be nice and far away in the unpopulated Northern Hemiphere.

      (Unpopulated by anyone important anyway.)

      (In case of confusion, "important" in this context means me, my mum, and the chap who runs the pizza shop.)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Truly, the post-truth age.

        "(In case of confusion, "important" in this context means me, my mum, and the chap who runs the pizza shop.)"

        We've seen the documentaries of what will happen in Oz after the apocalypse.

        <wanders of singing We Don't Need Another Hero>.

        1. Orv

          Re: Truly, the post-truth age.

          I still contend it will be Toyota pickups, not dune buggies. The only things sturdy enough to survive the apocalypse are Toyota pickups, Nokia peanut phones, and tardigrades.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    We need to install proper defenses on these drones!

    Unless a changing code is entered at recovery, the drone should start playing "The Collected Wisdom of the Dalai Lana", Falun Gong meditational chants, live news reports from Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the oral history of The Great Leap Forward.

    "Yankee running dogs, we recovered your counter-revolutionary drone as favor to you! We return your noisy machine and it's lies in great spirit of brotherhood!"

  18. PhilipN Silver badge

    How stupid can you get?

    Allowing a foreign vessel, which has been shadowing you, close enough and with time enough to grab YOUR drone from the water?

    In the Royal Navy that would have been a court martial offence.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: How stupid can you get?

      @PhilipN

      In the Royal Navy that would have been a court martial offence.

      see Lewis Page's follow up to the incident of the RN Sailors seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

      "Were the snatched Brit sailors in 'disputed waters'?

      Renewed Iran matelot-napping brouhaha dissected"

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/22/seized_brit_sailors_times_foi_analysis/

  19. Eddy Ito
    Devil

    This is why they have trojans planted on these drones. Just wait until the Chinese navy plugs their computer into the USB port and thinks they're downloading the stolen data. Ha ha ha ha ha.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "This is why they have trojans planted on these drones. Just wait until the Chinese navy plugs their computer into the USB port and thinks they're downloading the stolen data. Ha ha ha ha ha."

      They'll just activate the backdoor(s) built into the Made In China chips the Yanks used in it's construction.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Storm in a teacup

    Something tells me that the Chinese master believed the vessel to be in peril, and acted in accordance with the maritime salvage laws. The vessel and its contents will be returned to its hapless owners once a mutually agreed salvage fee is paid.

    Or, at least, it would be almost impossible for the yanks to prove otherwise ;p)

  21. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Pirate

    Revenge!

    The cheekiest revenge snatch I can think of would be to send a sub with plenty of SEALs to one of those man-made Chinese islands, have the SEALs land sneakily and quietly pinch all the weapons the Chinese have put on the island, replacing them with imitation ones stamped "made in Taiwan"!

  22. Fihart

    Message to all Chinese naval commanders.

    "The U.S. trade deficit with China was $365.7 billion in 2015 This is a new record, up slightly from last year's record of $343 billion. The trade deficit exists because U.S. exports to China were only $116.2 billion while imports from China hit a new record of $481.9 billion.21 Nov 2016"

    So don't rock the boat.

    1. Drew 11
      Flame

      Re: Message to all Chinese naval commanders.

      China could demolish the USD with one keyboard button push.

      Drumf's lack of any sort of diplomatic skill could be the trigger.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Message to all Chinese naval commanders.

        "China could demolish the USD with one keyboard button push."

        Not really. People say this because China holds a lot of US debt. But they cannot really do very much with it. They can try selling it at firesale rates, which would just make a lot of other investors very happy to buy perfectly serviceable US debt at bargain-basement prices.

        Or they could refuse to buy any more. Well, then the US sells to other people, at a slightly raised price. Meanwhile, China has to work out what to do with its foreign currency reserves.

        1. Orv

          Re: Message to all Chinese naval commanders.

          "Not really. People say this because China holds a lot of US debt. But they cannot really do very much with it."

          Reminds me of the old joke (adjusted for inflation), "If you owe the bank a million dollars, you have a problem. If you owe the bank a billion dollars, the bank has a problem."

          As I understand it this isn't a debt they can just call due. As noted, they can sell it, or refuse to buy more, but that's about it.

          Realistically the only thing debt-wise that can hurt the US in the short term is a default. China can't make that happen but we've come close to self-inflicting it a few times.

    2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Message to all Chinese naval commanders.

      That is what I was thinking. China is scared of the Donald. Already there are whispers of business moving factories back into the US from China. If China loses the world's largest economy, then it will be difficult to recover. Trump is a bully who pushed back twice as hard. China's action are clearly meant to show Trump how strong China is, it is meant to make Trump think twice.

      If China starts an actual war with the US, it will be very bloody and never have a winner. Plus the economic damage would be catastrophic to China because they would certainly be embargoed. Trump is inexperienced, but even he is not stupid enough to start a war with a super power. If they start a cold war, the result would be the same. Sure, the US economy would suffer, but not forever. "Made in China" would be replaced by "Made in Vietnam" or "Made in Bangladesh". Donald is a bully AND he has all the trump cards. (no pun intended) China knows this, and they are scared.

  23. AndrueC Silver badge
    Joke

    Maybe it was just due for a service under the warranty and the manufacturer does collect and return?

  24. Julian Garrett

    Meh

    Probably plays well to the crowd at home, but if I were in Chinese high command they guy that authorised this would get fired right away. It's the most boneheadedly stupid thing they could have done. For what - to get back at Trump for taking a call from Taiwan? To rile the US? To thumb their noses at Yankee aggression?

    Two words to China from the rest of civilisation - grow up

    If you think your little outburst here didn't go unnoticed by everyone you're wrong, and if you weigh up the potential upsides vs the potential downsides then here goes - on the upside - china gets a commercially available drone that tracks salinity, and gets to play Hector Comacho with the USA. downside - this just went around the world - and China is forever looking less trustworthy and more coercive in every dealing.

    Well played douchebags.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      Two words to China from the rest of civilisation - grow up

      Chinese were already experts at power politics and playing the game of chicken when american indians were still chasing the buffaloes, european sea-faring nations were using log rafts, and both believed the Earth to be flat.

      They only got better at it since then.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Meh

        "Chinese were already experts at power politics and playing the game of chicken when american indians were still chasing the buffaloes, european sea-faring nations were using log rafts, and both believed the Earth to be flat."

        Oh shut up. The Chinese government are not superhuman. A nice nationalistic diplomatic spat with the US might help then distract from their impending debt crisis for a bit, perhaps? Propping up their moribund SOEs with a firehose of cheap loans only makes things worse.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Meh

        "european sea-faring nations were using log rafts, and both believed the Earth to be flat."

        Tell that to the Minoans, who had a sea-based trading empire a good 3400 years before the Chinese Q'in dynasty (from where China gets its' name), and about 2000 years before the oldest recognised Chinese civilizations, Erlitou culture, began.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Meh

          "Tell that to the Minoans, who had a sea-based trading empire a good 3400 years before the Chinese Q'in dynasty"

          Bull! Where are the Minoans now? Eh? Eh?

          1. Captain Badmouth
            Happy

            Re: Meh

            "Bull! Where are the Minoans now? Eh? Eh?"

            Very good.

      3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: AC Re: Meh

        ".....Chinese were already experts at power politics and playing the game of chicken when american indians were still chasing the buffaloes, european sea-faring nations were using log rafts, and both believed the Earth to be flat....." Please do then explain the fact that China disintegrated into a feudal land ruled by warlords in the early 20th century, then fell under the myth of Communism for the late 20th century? Make sure you explain the "brilliance" of Mao's Great Leap Forward". Then you might come to realise the Chinese have a lot to learn from the rest of the World too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      "... and China is forever looking less trustworthy and more coercive in every dealing."

      You'll probably be flabergasted to learn that their standing in some countries will have gone up.

      And the US's key ally, the UK, will shortly be signing up for a second nuclear reactor from them but Mother Theresa won't have the guts to withdraw from the agreement, after the previous prevarication. So, in practice, your comment is irrelevant. Meh just about sums it up.

  25. JimC

    Much missing of the point.

    From China's point of view the US are operating in Chinese waters. The rest of the world may have decided new islands don't make territorial water, but did China ever agree?

    Fundamentally its just not very clever of the US, sabre rattling in dispurted territory, just like allowing Russias neighbours to sign up for Nato wasn't clever. Both look like aggressive moves if you look at it from the other party's POV.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Much missing of the point.

      "From China's point of view the US are operating in Chinese waters. The rest of the world may have decided new islands don't make territorial water, but did China ever agree?

      Fundamentally its just not very clever of the US, sabre rattling in dispurted territory, just like allowing Russias neighbours to sign up for Nato wasn't clever. Both look like aggressive moves if you look at it from the other party's POV."

      Let's try that again: From China's point of view, they make an outlandish claim to just own everything, and then get pissy with anyone who doesn't agree.

      Just like allowing Russia's neighbours to sign up to NATO, from the other guy's point of view: I used to keep some downtrodden indentured servants locked up in my basement but they managed to escape and are clubbing together so I cannot kidnap them again.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: JimC Re: Much missing of the point.

      "From China's point of view the US are operating in Chinese waters. The rest of the world may have decided new islands don't make territorial water, but did China ever agree?...." The area in question would be outside even the fake 200 mile economic zone created by any of the artificial islands China has created at the Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs.

      ".....Fundamentally its just not very clever of the US, sabre rattling in dispurted (sic) territory...." This event occurred about 50 miles from Subic Bay, well inside the internationally-recognised Philipines' waters, and is outside the Nice Dash Line claimed by China, which makes it even more an act of piracy as it is completely indefensible by any Chinese claim of "China Sea" sovereignty. Which just makes your comment fundamentally not very clever.

      "....just like allowing Russias (sic) neighbours to sign up for Nato (sic) wasn't clever...." The ex-Warsaw pact countries wanted to join the protection offered by NATO because they are scared of Russian intervention, not because NATO offers them any other incentive. Indeed, the commitment to spending 2% of GDP on modern weaponry plus the expense of overhauling their militaries to fit with NATO operating systems and policies is a serious expense to those ex-Warsaw pact countries, which just goes to show Pootie's tantrums and brinkmanship brought that little trouble on himself.

  26. Evil Auditor

    Unmanned vessel

    Who can claim an unmanned vessel? Didn't find anything in the article that says whether the incident happend in international waters. Anyone here knows something about martime law?

    1. DryBones

      Re: Unmanned vessel

      Of course it did. In fact from maps I've seen, it was outside even the outlandish nine dash line the Chinese think is all they need to flout international treaties they're signatories to. Their reasoning is it might be used against them.

      By that reasoning, I see nothing wrong with the USN nicking a Chinese sonar buoy or two...

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Unmanned vessel

        But are unmanned vessels covered by maritime law that China is a party to?

        Most traditional maritime laws date back to well before unmanned vessels were able to be kept under control. As I understand it, most maritime laws refer to whether a vessel is being piloted (under control) or not. If it's not under control, where control is usually defined as having a crew onboard able to pilot the vessel, and has been abandoned, and it's not a military vessel, isn't it fair game?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: eldakka Re: Unmanned vessel

          ".....If it's not under control, where control is usually defined as having a crew onboard able to pilot the vessel, and has been abandoned, and it's not a military vessel, isn't it fair game?" No, it has to be "abandoned", so a drone under remote control or following a pre-configured route is neither. The fact that the US ship in question had just picked up two other similar drones means the Chinese would have a hard time arguing they thought the third was "abandoned", especially as this is also not the first such outing for these quite well-publicised drones. I suggest you need to do some more reading, starting here. China ratified the UNCLOS in 1996, and therefore hasn't got a peg-leg to stand on as far as this act of piracy is concerned.

  27. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Facepalm

    this is what you get with wimpy foreign policy

    This is what you get when you have WIMPY foreign policy.

    You know, bend over, grab ankles, apologize for being yourself, and then say "Thank you sir, may have another" after getting... well, you know.

    There are SO many examples of rolling over and taking the abuse from the Obaka administration, that I'd just guess that China wants to have a look-see at our drone thingy so they can 'clone' it, before someone with REAL stones gets into the White House and demands its return [and is willing to actually FIRE THE GUNS AND MISSILES in response].

    1. d3vy

      Re: this is what you get with wimpy foreign policy

      @bob

      Where has that attitude to aggressive foreign policy got you in the past?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LOL, what was an American vessel doing so far away from America?

  29. Wedge

    Tom Clancy called it

    If you haven't already. Read Tom Clancy's SSN. A fantastic novel published in 1996 where even though the technology has moved on a bit is still a great read.

  30. Son 1

    他妈的你

    你不会得到它。我们现在是世界上最强大的人。

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: 他妈的你

      In waking a tiger, use a long stick.

      - Mao Tse-Tung

  31. rcx141

    obviously an American spy ship, good luck to the Chinese for having a bit of a laugh !

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: rcx141

      "obviously an American spy ship, good luck to the Chinese for having a bit of a laugh !" Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it! Oh, hold on a sec - wasn't Lyndon B. Johnson a Dummicrat POTUS though?

      The Chinese were a bit smarter the last time they tried something like this, getting the Norks to do their dirty work. Mind you, they probably think Obambi is more of a push-over than Johnson.

  32. Dr_N Silver badge

    This is unpresidented...

    ... apparently,

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Project Azorian

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Azorian

    That was in international waters too.

    So maybe the Chinese believe the US has already set a precedent.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: AC Re: Project Azorian

      ".....So maybe the Chinese believe the US has already set a precedent." No, because the K-129 had been abandoned by her crew (who are all presumed to have died in the event) and had sunk, the Soviets did not declare the K-129 a sovereign wreck (giving it protected warship wreck status), therefore maritime salvage law applied. The Yanks kept the salvage attempt quiet but there is no actual law saying you have to make a public declaration of any salvage operation on a ship that has been abandoned. The USSR could have stopped the effort by declaring the K-129 a sovereign wreck, but to do so would have meant making the embarrassing admission that they had lost a nuke-armed sub in the first place, which they were reluctant to do because they didn't think the wreck was salvageable. As it stands, Project Azorian was an amazing technical feat and probably one of the biggest intelligence coups of the Cold War, and bears no relation to the situation in hand.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AC Project Azorian

        > The Yanks kept the salvage attempt quiet but there is no actual law saying you have to make a public declaration of any salvage operation on a ship that has been abandoned.

        Yes, there is. Salvage doesn't mean you get to keep whatever you find out there, just that you have a claim for compensation. Which may include the item, or just a payment from the rightful owner, which typically isn't the full value of the item. There's an IMO convention on this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AC Project Azorian

          The convention in these sorts of situations is generally "Might is Right" or "It's not unethical unless you get caught".

          :/

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: ZanzibarRastapopulous Re: AC Project Azorian

          "....Yes, there is. Salvage doesn't mean you get to keep whatever you find out there, just that you have a claim for compensation...." Actually, no. You are thinking of a contract salvage, which is when a wreck has happened and a third party steps in and offers to perform the salvage operation for a fee, in return for which they usually get sole rights to make the salvage. If no contract has been made then anyone can make a salvage and then turn round and bill the owner. If there is no salvage contract in place, and the original owner wishes to reclaim the salvaged material, then they must make a claim and then pay a salvage fee. If the original owner thinks the fee being charged by the salvager is unfair then they can go to court, and if the original owner decides they don't want to pay for an unsanctioned salvage they can refuse and the salvager gets to keep the wreck. In the case of the Soviet sub, no sovereign wreck was declared, so the US didn't approach the Russians to demand a salvage fee, and the Russians didn't make a claim to have the salvaged material returned, so the US gets to keep it. If the Russians want it back now they would have to pay the US for the salvage. If they want to stop the salvage of the rest that remains on the seabed then they can just declare what's left a sovereign wreck, but it probably has zero intelligence value by now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AC Project Azorian

        @Matt Bryant

        So if the roles were reversed and the Russians salvaged a US submarine in identical circumstances, you'd be defending them? I think not.

        Bias / Prejudice / Bigotry / Discrimination*

        *tick all applicable!

  34. x 7

    and we're going to let the bastards build a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point?

    They should be told to fuck off right NOW! Whats wrong with our own nuclear technology?

    1. Hans 1
      Joke

      >They should be told to fuck off right NOW! Whats wrong with our own nuclear technology?

      Windscale ?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Windscale ?"

        British nuclear technology was mostly designed by British Leyland.

        In any case, the designs being deployed at Hinkley are french. You should be more worried that they're unproven technology(*) than where they're from.

        (*) One of the major reason the british civil nuclear program is so expensive was that no two plants are alike. Some policy wonk decided that it was ok for virtually every single one to be a different - incompatible - design, which means that there's no economies to be had in parts, maintenance knowledge or procedural training. Until MSRs are advanced enough to be deployable and start eating nuclear waste(**), there's a lot of milage in picking something like a Westinghouse 1400MW modular reactor design and sticking with it.

        The factor of the Hinkley design being unproven probably has a lot to do with the disquiet in EDF's board. Building a reactor that doesn't work comes with its own sets of economic liabilities.

        (**) I've said it before, but it's worth repeating that the _entire_ waste output of a water-moderated reactor of this size over a 60 year lifespan is about enough to fill an olympic-size pool and be safe enough to handle in 300 years (not 20,000). Compare and contrast with coal ash slurry ponds being several square miles and dangerous indefinitely.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Hans 1

        ".....Windscale ?" The nucleur piles at Sellafield were based on the B Reactor design from the American Manhattan Project. Even so, despite the anti-nuke crowd's shrieking, the Windscale fire was a relatively minor nucleur event, releasing far less radiation than many other such events (such as Three Mile Island, and much, much less than Chernobyl), and not one single death has actually been linked to the Windscale fire. One of the reasons the Windscale fire wasn't so bad an event was because of the additions made to the US design by British engineers and scientists, especially Sir John Cockroft's chimney filters (Cockcroft was a very clever chap and was also behind the use of the proximity fuses that shot down the majority of V-1 flying bombs in WW2).

        The British nuke power effort is currently mainly around nuke sub engines, and HMG considered the Chinese and French offers as they were cheaper, not because Britain was thought unable to develop her own.

        1. Orv

          Re: Hans 1

          "The nucleur piles at Sellafield were based on the B Reactor design from the American Manhattan Project."

          Yes, although the Americans weren't crazy enough to try to air-cool a superheated pile of flammable graphite. Windscale was a brilliant bit of economical design if you ignore that tiny little flaw. Having to keep fanning the fire in order to keep the rest of the pile from melting down was a hell of a dilemma.

          Neither design had ANY containment whatsoever, which is why all the Manhattan Project reactors at Hanford were built so far apart. If one failed and contaminated the land around it, they wanted to still be able to use the others.

          If you're ever in Eastern Washington State I highly recommend touring the B Reactor Museum. Amazing place. Just looking at the building you can tell it was built in a hell of a hurry.

    2. Captain Badmouth
      Boffin

      Whats wrong with our own nuclear technology?

      Time to go back to Thorium.

  35. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    ...let them keep it! says Trump

    "Donald Trump says China should keep the seized US Navy drone"

    "His comment came after US military announced understanding with China for return of underwater glider"

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-tweet-china-seize-us-navy-underwater-drone-south-china-sea-one-china-taiwan-a7482416.html

    " We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2016"

  36. llaryllama

    The international reaction to anything involving Taiwan and China is incredibly frustrating and saddening for anyone who lives here in Taiwan.

    Most of the world has collectively put a huge middle finger up to our democratic, liberal, LGBT-rights-approving country in order to appease a bullying, increasingly militaristic pseudo-communist country in the hope their citizens might want to buy their crap in future.

    Almost every news headline involving Trump and China seems to involve China being 'angered' by x, y or z. Well who gives a shit? Like most people in Taiwan I get pretty angry about being bullied by commies pointing a thousand or so missiles in our direction and being systematically humiliated on the international stage, but nothing about that on CNN.

    China's complaints that supporting Taiwan will 'destabilize peace across the Taiwan strait' is like a fat bully punching all the nerdy kids and saying they are destabilizing peace in the school yard by not bringing enough lunch money to steal.

    I don't like Trump much as a human being but I don't understand the amount of ass kissing and bending over that the most powerful nation in the world has been doing with China so far.

    1. Orv

      "...liberal, LGBT-rights-approving..."

      Shhh, if Trump hears you you'll NEVER get his support.

  37. TeacherMARK

    "Keep it!"

  38. Bloomin Genius

    Have any of you other experts on Law of the Sea thought to look where "50 miles northwest of Subic Bay" is? It would appear that China is pointing the finger ^H^H^H^H^H^H sharp stick at the Phillipines as well as at Obama. Two for the price of one. This will be interesting to watch. Wonder which way Duterte will jump - East or West.

  39. Jugernautilus

    All this posturing around is going to upset the Deep Ones at some point.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021