China’s First Underwater Drone Symposium Held Two Days After Capturing US Naval Drone


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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China held its first tech symposium on unmanned underwater vehicles Saturday, just two days after the Chinese navy seized a U.S. naval research drone in the South China Sea.

China’s “first ever” national technology symposium on underwater drones was organized by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shenyang Institute of Automation and attended by over one hundred experts. The event demonstrated China’s expanding interest in developing unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), introduced the South China Morning Post.

China’s first UUV was reportedly developed by researchers at Tianjin University. The Shenyang Institute of Automation has also built several drones.

“Underwater drones are one of the most promising hi-technologies in marine observation,” said Yu Haibin, the director of the Shenyang Institute of Automation. “It can be widely used in marine science, marine environment and marine security.”

Recognizing an “urgent need” for domestic entities to advance underwater drone research and development, the attendees determined China should set up a national underwater drone research organization to advance this goal.

The timing of the symposium is particularly interesting.

The event followed a serious incident in which the Chinese navy seized a U.S. naval research drone in the South China Sea.

As the operating ship USNS Bowditch was preparing to retrieve the drone, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warship shadowing it dispatched a smaller vessel to seize the drone.

The U.S. protested the seizure and demanded that China return the UUV immediately.

China’s Ministry of National Defense and the Pentagon have been in contact on this issue and have arrived at an agreement on the drone’s return.

While the U.S. claims the seizure was “unlawful,” since the Bowditch and the drone were operating legally in international waters, China claims that the seizure was justified.

China argues that the incident occurred in China’s jurisdictional waters; however, the Pentagon indicates otherwise.

China also asserts that it simply found the device, that it was removing an “unidentified device” from the water to prevent it from impacting navigational safety, that the U.S. was conducting military surveillance and spying on China, and that the seizure was intended to send a message to the current and incoming U.S. administrations.

The Chinese have stated that they acted appropriately and responsibly.

“The unmanned drone was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to U.S. military actions against China,” the People’s Daily asserted in an editorial.

China has accused the U.S. of unfairly and unreasonably hyping up the recent incident.

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