Giant two-metre Chinese submarine drone is discovered by fisherman in maritime trade passages

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By Isabelle Stackpool For Daily Mail Australia 00:32 31 Dec 2020, updated 00:38 31 Dec 2020

  •  A huge two-metre underwater drone was discovered by Indonesian fisherman 
  •  The surveillance device was found in a key maritime trade route to Australia 
  •  Unmanned underwater vehicles are used to collect oceanographic data 
  •  The submarine drone was found to be ‘very similar’ to a UUV belonging to China 

A Chinese submarine drone has been discovered in crucial maritime trade waters  amid escalating tensions between China and Australia.

Indonesian fishermen found the two-metre unmanned underwater drone in waters near Selayar Island, just off South Sulawesi, on December 20.

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The UUV was reported to authorities six days later and images published in local media showed Indonesian military officers posing with the long grey drone.

Officials stated the discovery was significant as the UUV was found in a crucial maritime route linking the South China Sea and Darwin, ABC News reported.

Information gathered by the drone could be used by the Chinese navy if the communist government decided to use the trade routes, experts fear. 

Indonesian fishermen found a two-metre unmanned underwater vehicle (pictured above with military) in waters near Selayar Island, just off South Sulawesi, on December 20
The UUV was reported to authorities and is being inspected by the Indonesian military. Local media shared pictures of officers posing with the submarine drone (pictured above)

The high-tech unpowered surveillance device is known as a glider and utilises variable-buoyancy propulsion to explore the waters.  

Local media said the drone was ‘in the shape of a missile’, made of aluminium, and was 225cm in length with a 50cm wing on either side. 

A rear antenna attached to the equipment is also 93cm in length.  

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The UUV was initially seized by police and is now being inspected by the military at the 6th Main Naval Base in Makassar.    

Prominent Indonesian-based security analyst ‘Jatosint’ explained the surveillance drone was ‘very similar to China’s ‘Sea Wing’ UUV’.

‘Which, if it’s true, raised many questions especially how it managed to be found deep inside our territory,’ the page said. 

The drone was discovered in a key maritime route linking the South China Sea and Darwin
The surveillance drone (pictured) was recognised as ‘very similar to China’s ‘Sea Wing’ UUV’

The UUV reportedly gathers oceanographic data on temperature, turbidity, salinity, oxygen levels and other statistics. 

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Defence publication Naval News explained the device could be used to gather valuable military information.  

‘This data may sound innocuous and it is often used for scientific research, but it can also be extremely valuable to naval planners, especially supporting submarine operations,’ Naval News wrote.  

A UUV (Chinese UUV pictured) is used to gather oceanographic data such as temperature

A Chinese Sea Wing UUV was also discovered by Indonesian fisherman near the Riau Islands in March 2019.

Another submarine drone was found near the Surabaya Naval Base in January. 

The relationship between Australia and China have deteriorated since Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the spread of coronavirus from Wuhan in April.

China responded by slapping devastating tariffs on Australian wine and barley, adding sanctions on beef, wheat, cotton, lamb, coal and lobster.   

Earlier this month, similar tariffs were slapped on timber shipments from Tasmania and South Australia.

The Chinese Government said it was to ‘prevent the pests entering China and to protect our country’s forestry and ecological safety’.

The Morrison government announced last Monday it was lodging a formal dispute at the World Trade Organisation over China’s tariff on its barley.

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Australia is the biggest barley supplier to China, exporting about $1.5 billion to $2 billion worth a year, which is more than half its exports. 

A Department of Defence spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia the discovery of the UUV was ‘a matter for the Indonesian Government’.  

Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment. 

How China’s feud with Australia has rapidly escalated 

2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.

April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.

April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.

April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.

April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.

April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.

May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.

May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.

May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.

June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.

June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.

June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.

July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.

August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.

August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.

October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.

November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.

November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.

November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia.

November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry.

November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia’s $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being ‘dumped’ or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers.

November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians.

December 12: Chinese government tells power stations not to use Australian coal, according to local media.