On Thursday, the US Navy said a US nuclear attacks submarine was damaged in the South China Sea on October 2nd after hitting an unknown “object,” injuring about a dozen sailors.
It’s not clear what the USS Connecticut hit, and one US Navy official told The Associated Press that it could have been a sunken ship, sunken container, or some other uncharted object. The submarine is expected to arrive at the US port in Guam soon.
The incident highlights the risk of the US operating such vessels in the South China Sea. The submarine was likely spying on Chinese submarines and boats and operating close to the seafloor to stay hidden.
China has questions about the accident and wants the US to disclose more information. “The United States should clarify more details of the occurrence, including the specific location, the intention of its navigation, what kind of object the sub had struck, whether it caused a nuclear leak that would contaminate marine environment,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday.
Zhao added that the US military presence in the region is the “root cause” of the accident. He said US operations in the South China Sea “poses a serious threat and major risk to regional peace and stability.”
Since 2020, the US has significantly stepped up its military presence in the South China Sea. This increases the chance of a US warship or warplane getting involved in an accident with the Chinese military. And with US-China relations at their lowest point in decades, an accident could quickly spiral into a full-blown conflict.