Reports have come in that China’s navy has captured an unmanned, underwater U.S. Navy vehicle in international waters in the South China Sea.

CNBC reported:

A Chinese Navy warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters in the South China Sea, triggering a formal demarche from the United States and a demand for its return, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Friday.

The incident — the first of its kind in recent memory — took place on Dec. 15 northwest of Subic Bay just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve the unmanned, underwater vehicle (UUV), the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” the official said.

“It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was U.S. property.”

The official also said that the vehicle belonged to “an unclassified program to collect oceanographic data, including salinity, temperature and clarity of the water” which helps “unform U.S. military sonar data.”

The Bowditch asked the Chinese vessel to return the drone, but sailed away even though the crew confirmed they received the American’s message.

We will update when more information becomes available.