Chinese sub suffers accident in South China Sea
A Chinese navy submarine has been damaged during exercises in the South China Sea, Beijing said Tuesday, but officials refused to say whether there were any casualties.
Japanese press reports said the sub stalled after a fire broke out aboard the vessel while it was submerged.
It was being towed Monday above the water by a Chinese vessel toward the Yulin Naval Port on China's Hainan Island, the Yomiuri Shimbun said, citing Japanese and US defense sources.
"The incident happened while the Chinese navy was organizing submarine emergency exercises," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan, refusing to give more details or confirm that a fire broke out.
The Defense Ministry declined comment.
Two years ago, all 70 crew on board a Ming-class Chinese military submarine died after a "mechanical malfunction" while on a training exercise off China's northeast coast.
Japanese and U.S. authorities have been monitoring the vessel, also a Ming-class diesel-powered hunter-killer submarine, the report said.
The accident occurred Thursday in international waters about halfway between Taiwan and Hainan Island, reportedly close to the remote Dongsha Islands.
It was not known whether the submarine surfaced on its own accord.
"Through out intelligence channels, we knew some trouble happened to the ship," said Liou Chih-jein, spokesman for Taiwan's Defense Ministry.
"But how the accident happened and the cause was not clear," he said.
Three or four Chinese warships were spotted around the site of the accident, and another Chinese submarine was detected, the daily said, which appeared to confirm that the incident occurred during a military exercise.
The Japanese and US governments believe the incident will not have an adverse environmental impact because the submarine was not nuclear-powered, the Yomiuri said.
China is believed to have a fleet of 60 to 70 operational submarines, most of which are ageing, and only a handful of which are nuclear powered.
The bulk of the conventional fleet is composed of Ming and Romeo class submarines, based on obsolete Soviet designs.