China demands US explain USS Connecticut’s collision with ‘unknown object,’ questions intentions behind cover-up
Published: Oct 19, 2021 08:13 PM
South China Sea Photo: VCG

South China Sea Photo: VCG

China is seriously concerned about the USS Connecticut’s collision with an "unknown object" in international waters in the South China Sea, and said the US is obligated to explain the incident in detail, China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Tuesday. 

“For a long time, under the slogan of ‘freedom of navigation and overflight,’ the US has frequently dispatched advanced weapons platforms such as aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, and nuclear submarines in the South China Sea to show off its force and stir up trouble, seriously threatening regional national security and increasing regional tensions,” said Tan Kefei, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defense in a statement.  

On October 8, media reported that a US nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Connecticut, struck an underwater object in the South China Sea on October 2. 

The US Navy confirmed the accident by saying it is unclear what the Seawolf-class submarine may have hit while it was submerged, adding that the submarine remains in a safe and stable condition, with its nuclear propulsion plant and spaces unaffected, but it did not explain the details of the accident. 

Tan pointed out that the US Navy has deliberately delayed and concealed the details of the accident. 

“It took the US Navy five days after the accident took place to make a short and unclear statement,” Tan said. “Such an irresponsible approach and cover-up lack transparency and can easily lead to misunderstandings and misjudgments. China and the neighboring countries in the South China Sea have to question the truth of the incident and the intentions behind it.”

This incident also shows that the recent establishment of a trilateral security partnership between the US, UK and Australia (AUKUS) to carry out nuclear submarine cooperation has brought a huge risk of nuclear proliferation, seriously violated the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, undermined the construction of a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia, and brought severe challenges to regional peace and security, Tan said.

“We believe that the actions of the US will affect the safety of navigation in the South China Sea, arouse serious concerns and unrest among the countries in the region, and pose a serious threat and a major risk to regional peace and stability,” Tan said. 

Tan urged that the US should stop reconnaissance and deployment of military forces against China in the adjacent sea and airspace of China’s South China Sea, and stop the so-called freedom of navigation in the waters.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also expressed grave concern about the accident and urged the US to clarify more details, including its purpose of cruising in the area, and whether it has caused a nuclear leak that has damaged the local marine environment.

"I want to stress that the root cause of the incident, which also poses a serious threat and significant risks to regional peace and stability, is the US' constant stirring up of trouble in the South China Sea over a long period of time," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on October 8. 

Experts reached by the Global Times said previously that the US nuclear submarines normally cruise in the South China Sea at depths of over 100 meters. If it collided with a reef or another submarine, the resulting damage would likely be serious. Some believed the "unknown object" is more likely an artificial fish reef rather than a breeding cage.

Global Times