China accuses the US of ‘lack of transparency over submarine accident

BEIJING: China on Tuesday accused the US of a lack of transparency and responsibility regarding an accident in the South China Sea involving a Navy submarine last month.

At a daily briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the US should provide full details of the incident that has revived a dispute between the two countries over the strategic waterway.

“We once again urge the US to give a detailed account of the accident,” he said. Two US Navy officials said the service had determined the nuclear-powered USS Connecticut struck a seamount or underwater mountain.

The Navy has yet to fully explain how or why the sub struck the seamount or to reveal the extent of damage to the Seawolf-class submarine. Wang described what he called a lack of transparency and responsibility by the US in following up with the incident.

He said the US has so far failed to offer a clear explanation” of what the Navy nuclear submarine was doing in the area, as well as the specific location of the accident, whether it was in another country’s exclusive economic zone or even territorial waters, whether it caused a nuclear leak or damaged marine environment.

China claims sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of international trade pass each year. Six governments claim islands, atolls, and exclusive economic zones in the sea, while the US insists that freedom of navigation be maintained, reinforcing that with regular military flights and naval patrols and training missions around the region.

The Navy has said the submarine’s nuclear reactor and propulsion system were not damaged. The collision caused a small number of moderate and minor injuries to the crew. USNI News, which was first to report that the submarine had struck a seamount, said damage to the forward section of the sub included its ballast tanks.