China demands US to provide details, location where American N-sub struck in SCS; blames ‘freedom of navigation’ operations

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Beijing: Expressing concern over a US nuclear submarine sustaining damage in the disputed South China Sea, China on Friday demanded Washington to reveal the details and the location of the incident and blamed America’s assertion to conduct air and naval sorties in the name of “freedom of navigation” as its cause.

A US nuclear-powered submarine struck an object underwater in the South China Sea (SCS) on Saturday. A number of sailors on board the USS Connecticut were injured in the accident. None of the injuries were life-threatening, a statement from the US Pacific Fleet said on Thursday.

It’s unclear what the Seawolf-class submarine may have hit while it was submerged.

“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition. USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational,” the US Navy statement said.

Asked for his reaction, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that “China is severely concerned about this accident”.

“The US as the side involved in this incident should inform the relevant details including the location, purpose of this navigation, details of the accident and what did the submarine run into and whether any nuclear leakage has taken place and whether local maritime environment was harmed”, he said.

He also said that the US’ assertion to conduct air and naval sorties in the name of freedom of navigation was the cause for this incident.

“I also want to emphasise that for some time the US side has been acting, making waves in the SCS under the banner freedom of navigation. This is the source of this accident, severely threatening and imposing serious risks to the regional peace and stability”, he said.

“The US has been delaying uncovering the details of this accident. It is acting without any transparency and responsibility,” he said.

Zhao said that China and the relevant countries in the SCS have to doubt the facts and the US intention.

China claims most of the SCS. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims over the area. Over the years, China has built a number of military installations in the reclaimed islands in the SCS and deployed a big fleet of its naval ships and submarines.

Citing the incident, China also said that the US’ move to sell nuclear subs to Australia under AUKUS will increase nuclear risks in the region.

“This incident has shown that the sales of the nuclear submarine through AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) to Australia will lead to dissemination of nuclear technology and materials and intensify regional security risks,” he said.

This would increase the possibility of nuclear risks in the region.

“Relevant countries should abandon the outdated cold war mentality and narrow minded geopolitical vision and stop such wrong acts that will destroy the regional peace and stability as well as development,” he said.

China also asked the US to sever defence and official ties with Taiwan while reacting to reports that US troops were training Taiwanese troops.

He also asked the US to sever military and official ties with Taiwan, while reacting to reports that a small number of US special operations forces were deployed in Taiwan on rotational basis to train Taiwanese forces.

Reports quoted a Pentagon spokesman John Supple as highlighting that the US support for defence relationship with Taiwan “remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China.”

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province. However, democratic Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign state. Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve unification with Taiwan.

The One China principle which emphasises that Taiwan is part of China is the political foundation for China-US ties, Zhao said.

“The US must sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and abrogate its mutual defence treaty with Taiwan and must withdraw” from the estranged island, he said.

The US should only stick to the commitments to maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan, he said, adding that China is firm in defending its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tensions flared up between China and Taiwan as the Chinese military since October 1 flew a record 150 air force jets into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the weeklong holidays to celebrate China’s National Day.

The issue figured in Wednesday’s talks between top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Zurich during which the two sides have agreed to improve the strained ties.

The intensity of China’s air raids prompted US President Joe Biden to remind his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that they have agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement” during their telephone talks last month.

“I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree … we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement. We made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” Biden had earlier said.

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