Wednesday, June 01, 2005
A Chinese Navy submarine stalled apparently after a fire broke out aboard the vessel while it was submerged in the South China Sea, sources close to the Japanese and U.S. defense authorities said Monday. As of Monday afternoon, the submarine was being towed above the water in the direction of Hainan Island. The Japanese and U.S. governments have been monitoring the vessel, and it is unknown whether there were any casualties, the sources said. The warship in question is a Chinese Navy Ming-class diesel-powered hunter-killer submarine, the sources added. According to the sources, the accident occurred in international waters about halfway between Taiwan and Hainan Island on Thursday, and the submarine was being towed by a Chinese vessel apparently in the direction of Yulin Naval Port on the island. It is not known whether the submarine surfaced on its own, the sources added. Three or four Chinese warships were spotted around the site of the accident, and another Chinese submarine was detected, which suggests that an accident may have occurred during a military exercise, the sources said. The Japanese and U.S. governments believe the accident will not affect surrounding areas because the vessel was not nuclear-powered, the sources said. In 2003, all 70 crew members of a Ming-class submarine were killed in an accident caused by a mechanical malfunction. The accident is believed to have been caused by a rapid decline in the amount of oxygen inside the submarine. China never disclosed the cause. The waters in which the latest accident occurred are strategically important for China as the South China Sea includes Spratly Islands, on which several countries lay territorial claims. China also has conducted frequent drills involving submarines in the area. In the event of a military attack on Taiwan, China likely would use the area to block U.S. carrier-borne fighters from coming to the aid of the island.
Ming Class Diesel Powered Submarine