US Asian Allies "Worried" By Muted Response To Drone Seizure, As Fears Grow China "Stole Secrets"

Tyler Durden's picture

While Friday's seizure by China of a US underwater drone may end up as just a tempest in a teapot after China grudgingly agreed to return the US equipment this week after a formal protest by the Pentagon, and Trump's tweet slamming the "unprecedented act", two new concerns have emerged. According to John McCain, China may be poring over a seized underwater drone to unearth secret information about Navy technology, hours after Trump suggested Beijing should “keep it.”

Quoted by Bloomberg, McCain, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN's State of the Union that “The Chinese are able to do a thing called reverse-engineering, where they are able to - while they hold this drone, able to find out all of the technical information. And some of it is pretty valuable."

McCain said China’s seizure was “a gross violation of international law,” echoing the prevailing U.S. response and Trump’s initial blast via a tweet. The president-elect told his 17.5 million Twitter followers: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.”

His comments highlighted the U.S. political tensions touched off by China’s decision to scoop up the submersible in international waters, which was not even located within the confines of the contested nine-dash line. Assurances from China that the vessel would be returned failed to quiet U.S. critics -- including Trump, who initially denounced the snatch-and-grab move and then reversed himself hours later. Trump said on Twitter late Saturday that “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back - let them keep it!”

Asked about the tweet, Trump's communications director, Jason Miller, said on Fox News Channel that China was likely to return “a chunk of metal and maybe a bag of wires” after holding the drone for several days.

While the tensions unleashed by the episode underscored the delicate state of relations between the two countries, weeks before Trump’s inauguration, they were merely the latest escalation in the growing conflict over whose geopolitical sphere of influence has legitimacy over the contest South China Sea zone, an area rich in resources and a critical nexus point for global naval commerce.

In the war of words that resulted following the capture of the drone, both sides laid out their cases clearly: “China is very sensitive about unmanned underwater vehicles because they can track our nuclear ballistic missile submarines fleet,” said retired Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at Beijing-based research group the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. “If one from the Bowditch can be detected and even snatched by a Chinese naval ship, it shows it’s getting too close to the sensitive water areas.” Meanwhile, in its statement Friday confirming reports that the drone had been captured, the Pentagon described it simply as ”an unclassified ‘ocean glider’ system used around the world to gather military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, and sound speed.”

* * *

However, while the diplomatic spat between China and the US will likely not be resolved any time soon, and the seizure of the naval drone will simply add to the list of complaint vocalized by both sides, a more troubling diplomatic cascade may emerge if, as the NYT reports, US allies in China view Washington's response as "muted."

Only a day before a small Chinese boat sidled up to a United States Navy research vessel in waters off the Philippines and audaciously seized an underwater drone from American sailors, the commander of United States military operations in the region told an audience in Australia that America had a winning military formula. “Capability times resolve times signaling equals deterrence,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., told a blue chip crowd of diplomats and analysts at the prestigious Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, the leading city in America’s closest ally in the region.


In the eyes of America’s friends in Asia, the brazen maneuver to launch an operation against an American Navy vessel in international waters in the South China Sea about 50 miles from the Philippines, another close American ally, has raised questions about one of the admiral’s crucial words. It was also seen by some as a taunt to President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has challenged the “One China” policy on Taiwan and has vowed to deal forcefully with Beijing in trade and other issues.


“The weak link is the resolve, and the Chinese are testing that, as well as baiting Trump,” said Euan Graham, director of international security at the Lowy Institute. “Capability, yes. Signaling, yes, with sending F-22 fighter jets to Australia. But the very muted response means the equation falls down on resolve.”

In a repeat of the "Russian hacking" incident, which exposed a weak Obama administration unable to respond in any effective way to what it has dubbed a gross violation by the Kremlin, the NYT added that across Asia, diplomats and analysts said they were "perplexed at the inability of the Obama administration to devise a strong response to China’s challenge. It did not even dispatch an American destroyer to the spot near Subic Bay, a former American Navy base that is still frequented by American ships."

The end result, analysts said, is that China would be emboldened by having carried out an act that amounted to hybrid warfare, falling just short of provoking conflict, and suffering few noticeable consequences.

“Allies and observers will find it hard not to conclude this represents another diminishment of American authority in the region,” said Douglas H. Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It also means that the US is willing to acknowledge the decline of its regional influence even as China's grows by the day:

As China has built up its navy and its submarine fleet in the last decade, it has also emphasized what it calls its “inherent” right to dominate the regional seas, and to challenge the presence of the United States, its allies and partners in Asia.


The drone incident, which occurred Thursday, and was first broadcast by CNN despite efforts by the Obama administration to settle it quietly, was of a different nature and just as disquieting as past confrontations with China that involved bigger ships and more dangerous maneuvers, analysts said.


In 2001, soon after President George W. Bush came to office, an American spy aircraft, an EP-3, was forced to land on Hainan Island after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet. The Chinese stripped the plane of all its assets and returned it broken down to its parts and packed in boxes.


In 2009, two months after President Obama took office, Chinese vessels swarmed a United States Navy reconnaissance ship, the Impeccable, in what the Pentagon said were dangerous and unprofessional maneuvers.

And while the outgoing Obama administration may simply not have any desire to get futher involved in any escalating diplomatic entanglements with China (or Russia) over terrotorial disputes (or hack allegations), the same can hardly be said for the Trump administration. We, and the entire market, look forward with great interest to the president-elect's response following the next mini diplomatic spat to emerge between China and the US, which following the latest geopolitical staredown between China and the US, which saw the latter averting its gaze first, is guaranteed to follow in short notice.

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JRobby's picture

They had that thing apart and all the software downloaded in 15 minutes

fauxhammer's picture

No worries.  Obammy promised "there will be costs"

(He then pulled his putt hard to the left)

Son of Loki's picture

Obama will avoid Chinese take-out for a month.

That'll teach them!


Maybe he'll only send China 20,00 more American jobs instead of 50,000 before he leaves office.

Perimetr's picture

Obviously we should have started a war with China

because they snagged a carelessly deployed US spy drone.

Why publish this deep-state pro-intervention bullshit?

beemasters's picture

Anyone should try reverse engineer the warmongering McCain instead. And please do us all a favor...don't put him back together again.

two hoots's picture




-         McCain:  thing called reverse engineer” ? Trying to sound smart when “everybody knows that”.  The pompous ass.


-         Contractor has a new model (added two screws and colored it differently) so paid China to take it.


-         Is mapping the ocean floor a secret?  Or what was we really doing?


-         Did the navy commander just let it happen, wasn’t watching? (go back to contractor has…)


-         Wanting to give China a fake model so we could track what they do with our toys


-         We should put a remote controlled bomb in them in the future.


-         All in all it helps defense spending and the industry which gives money to communities with their business.  Kinda like how drug dealers really do help. 


chisler's picture

it landed in the water, 2 shot penalty.

ejmoosa's picture

I am gonna guess that our military was not smart enough to bait them with drone subs that had spy software built in so when they did take it apart, we infected their systems right?

Or have the drones with bogus technology to send them in the wrong technical direction?


Lynx Dogood's picture

Billy sent them unlimited secretes. Obama, all of our nuke locations and now a drone sub. Change you can believe in????????


Trump probably told them to keep it because they are the masters of imitaion. They have already have it picked apart, so we will have no advantage with that model in the future, it's now garbage. So the new version will be out sooner or later with Trump in office. Then things go boom when the chinese screw with us. Based on how the Mongolian government treats them...


It will be a big nothing for China. Trump will try to offshoot the crap they make to other countries that already exist and make the same products. China holds nothing at this time that can threaten the US. Not a nationalist, just a realist, don't give me the SDR crap either, it's a fractional count, that no country can make loans in on a whim.

Tallest Skil's picture

Look how filthy the map's propaganda is. "China's historical territorial claim" NO. IT ISN'T. The claim began in 1947 when the fucking commies took over. It has nothing to do with any measure of history. Yes, 70 years, but it's literally no more their historic claim than the Argies' "claim" on the Falklands, which Spain NEVER administered at any point in their history, nor Rio De La Plata, nor Argentina itself.

thegazzman's picture

Chinese shills on the downvote - get outta here

TomJoad's picture

Here's what they stole. Commercial off the shelf stuff McCain's off his gourd.

gdpetti's picture

McCain's been 'off his gourd' since taken prisoner back in 'Nam... given the green jacket treatment by the Reagan White House, installed him down in Arizona and set him up for his current ongoing role in the NWO team in Congress... with Graham and former Congressional Dem turned 'indie' Lieberman. They used to be the Congressional Trio just a few years back, though nowadays, they aren't really needed, same with Congress, nor the MSM... the entire system to being slowly phased out... no longer needed nore useful much longer.


JRobby's picture

Fully functional 1/32 scale model will be available for Christmas delivery for purchase tomorrow! 

Pays to shop last minute

wikispooks's picture

Yep. piece of cake. They probably made and exported all the parts anyway.

boattrash's picture

China has become Great at Reverse Engineering...they had to when WJC left office!

buzzsaw99's picture

hillary would have sold them the plans for a small donation but since she might not win they have to do it the hard way

ebworthen's picture

I can live without a 65" flat screen or an iPhone.

Xena fobe's picture

I can't live without socks. Gonna really miss socks.

AriusArmenian's picture

McInsane, as usual, harping on some 'threat'.


WTFUD's picture

Chinese confiscating a Spy-Drone in the China Sea is ' a gross violation of International law'; not him feeding WMD's to al-CIAd'uh-Nusrah, no siree bob. The big toothy smile in a meeting at one of the terrorist group's command posts on the turk-syria border will always haunt me ; He's a War Criminal plain and simple.

Xena fobe's picture

It was outside China's nine dash line in international waters. No one read the article.

wanderer9641's picture

This is so hilarious - The Chinese are right in that leaving an unmanned drone floating is a hazard to shipping - they had every right to pick up hazards.

Xena fobe's picture

The US ship was along side about to pick it up.

Sledge-hammer's picture
Sledge-hammer (not verified) Dec 18, 2016 5:03 PM

Jesus Christ, we are not going to start hostilities over a POS drone.  The chinks are behaving the way they have always behaved (like petulant children with an inferiority complex).  They do things like this all the time as a test.  Again like a child who throws a temper tantrum to see how the adult will react and to see what they can get away with.  Even China gets the business sometimes.  China sometimes gets this business from the North Koreans.  China is Nork's largest trading partner.  Not too long ago, the Nork's refused to return to China a Chinese cargo train that had delivered goods into North Korea.  The Nork's were testing China, just like China is doing to us and have done to other Pacific Rim countries before this incident.  DT will deal with them when he takes office.  The chinks are in no position to lose our markets and hold too much of our debt to piss off DT.

Shemp 4 Victory's picture


The chinks are behaving the way they have always behaved (like petulant children with an inferiority complex).  They do things like this all the time as a test.  Again like a child who throws a temper tantrum to see how the adult will react and to see what they can get away with.

Replace 'chinks' with 'US citizens' and the statement still holds. This leads to an interesting question: is US citizenism blobbing up in China, or is Chinese citizenism blobbing up in America?

dark fiber's picture

I am sure they did.  I can only imagine the look on their faces when they opened that thing and realized that more than half of everything in it was made in China anyway.  Stole secrets my ass, everything is available to the highest bidder .

Make_Mine_A_Double's picture

I found it telling that the Bangkok Post did not even run the story. They did cover the Chicom live fires drills, but no mention of the drone snatch.

As opposed to nut balls like Duerte and his 'boys of summer' parade ground military, the Thais are long time serious military allies - or were. Little omissions like this tell the larger story.

Chalk up another one for the magic monkey.

rejected's picture

"McCain said China’s seizure was “a gross violation of international law"

As MoonofAlabama explains, there are no international laws pertaining to unmanned ships.

McCainiac needs to cite the 'law' he refers to,,, or is this just another POS statement from our government we're supposed to accept without question.

chunga's picture

Thanks again Arizona.

RagaMuffin's picture

Hell, in light of how muck US paper China still has, they merely  "repoed" the drone

Arnie Fife's picture

They never printed a guy on the bill.... saying it made it worth anything.

Paper is all of our pensions...worthless paper.

gregga777's picture

LGBTQQPedophile-K9HorseDonkeyGoatKat-MonkeyBLMWhatever Barack Hussein Obama is and has been a laughing stock around the world. A Girl Scout Brownie has more balls than Bathhouse Barry.

Arnie Fife's picture

When we turn their *ucking container ships around with all their *hit aboard.... to rot in their harbors....maybe they will get a *ucking clue.

Atticus Finch's picture

Unfortunately, that's when the sell all their US Treasry Bonds. Get a clue.

Xena fobe's picture

They're liquidating them now anyway. . They have arranged to trade in non USD currencies with other trade partners. The greater concern is that we need the imports for the time beong and being suddenly cut off would be devastating.  Another concern is if they peg their currency to gold.

wisehiney's picture

Convert those "strong" dollars to precious and other real assets.

Build impenetrable border defenses.

Put up Reagans "Star Wars" missle defense system.

Spark up a puffy and chill.

Who was that masked man's picture

It contains the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, let 'em keep it.

Atticus Finch's picture

"McCain said China’s seizure was “a gross violation of international law,” As though the US invading sovereign states like Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Afgahnistan and overthrowing numberous popularly elected governments for the last seventy years isn't. How do the most gross violaters of international law continue to use violation of international law as criticism. Has the American public become so stupid?

cheech_wizard's picture

McCain is  “a gross violation of a human being,” yet that miraculously didn't prevent him from becoming a war-mongering neocon.

Xena fobe's picture

Both are violations. Are you really suggesting stealing the drone in international waters is acceptible because the U.S. invaded middle east countries?  And Americans are the stupid ones?

Joebloinvestor's picture

You can bet China knew all about that drone and its' construction before it even entered the water.

cheech_wizard's picture

>As Fear Grows China "Stole Secrets"

You mean like they been doing since the first time they were caught?

Standard Disclaimer: Larry Wu-Tai Chin worked in the U.S. intelligence community for nearly 35 years while providing China with classified information. Chin was recruited as a spy by a Chinese Communist official in 1948; an interpreter at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai, he was later hired by the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service. After he became an American citizen in 1965 he was transferred to Arlington, Virginia, where he had access to reports from intelligence agents abroad and translations of documents acquired by CIA officers in China. Chin sold classified National Intelligence Estimates pertaining to China and Southeast Asia to China, enabling the country to discover weaknesses in its intelligence agencies and compromise U.S. intelligence activities in the region. He provided sensitive information about Richard Nixon’s plans for normalizing relations with China two years before the president visited the country. In February 1986, Chin was convicted of 17 counts of espionage, conspiracy and tax evasion.

Xena fobe's picture

20 million more waiting in the wings.

Duc888's picture



Someone needs to tell asshole Mcinsane that China probably makes half the fucking electronics in the drone already...

Xena fobe's picture

Yes, Trump is right, we'll get back a bag of parts.  Too late now.

jonjon831983's picture

Nah, they thought it was a shark for sharkfin soup. Completely useless.



Just don't plug in the drone to any systems...

headless blogger's picture

Maybe someone wants them to find the 'secret info'. If not, then don't send this crap into other nations space. 

Xena fobe's picture

It was outside China's claimed nine dash line in international water.

SpanishGoop's picture

"US Asian allies Worried".

You mean those countries that rely on US taxpayer dollars ?