BEIJING: Expressing grave concern over a US nuclear-powered submarine sustaining damage in the disputed South China Sea, China on Friday demanded Washington to reveal the details and the location of the accident and blamed America’s frequent air and naval sorties in the Indo-Pacific to assert the “freedom of navigation” as the “root cause” of the incident. The USS Connecticut struck an object underwater in the South China Sea on Saturday. Eleven sailors on board the submarine 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 said “China is gravely concerned about the incident”. “As the party involved, the US should clarify in specific details what happened, including the exact location of the incident, the US side’s navigation intention, the details of the incident, the object the submarine struck, whether the collision caused a nuclear leak or damaged local marine environment, etc,” Zhao said. He alleged that the US has long been making trouble in the SCS in the name of “freedom of navigation”, which poses a grave threat and major risks for regional peace and stability. “This is the root cause of this incident,” he said.
“China and other countries surrounding the South China Sea cannot help but ask what truly happened and what the US’ intention is,” he said. The spokesman also used the opportunity to criticise the Aukus security alliance announced by the US, Britain and Australia.