Beijing Says US Lacks ‘Transparency and Responsibility’ on Submarine Accident

The US deployed a spy plane that detects radioactive debris to the South China Sea, signaling the US suspects a possible leak of nuclear material

On Monday, the US Navy said the nuclear-powered submarine USS Connecticut that had an accident in the South China Sea on October 2nd collided with an underwater mountain. Responding to the US claim, Beijing said Washington is lacking “transparency and Responsibility” over the incident.

China is not happy that the US has not shared the location of the accident, among other details. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday that the US has not given Beijing “clear answers to questions like the intention of the operation, the exact location of the incident, whether it lies in the exclusive economic zone or territorial sea of any country, and whether the collision led to a nuclear leak or polluted the marine environment, all causing great concern and doubt.”

“This fully exposed the US lack of transparency and responsibility,” Wang added. He also reiterated China’s call for the US to stop dangerous military operations in the South China Sea and other sensitive areas in the region. “The key is to stop deploying military aircraft and warships to harass and provoke others and flex muscles, and to stop harming other countries’ sovereign security, otherwise it will be inviting more, not fewer, similar incidents,” he said.

The recent deployment of a US spy plane designed to detect radioactive material signals China might be right about Washington’s lack of transparency. According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), on October 31st, five US spy planes were observed flying over the South China Sea, including a Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix, also known as the “nuke sniffer.”

The WC-135 deployment could mean the accident was severe enough for the US to think it caused nuclear leakage. “It’s rare for the WC-135 to come to the South China Sea region. Its last activity in the region dates back to January 2020,” the SCSPI said on WeChat, according to The South China Morning Post.

The USS Connecticut’s accident highlights the danger of the constant US military activity in the South China Sea. With US-China relations at such a low point, an accident involving a Chinese warship or warplane could easily spiral into a full-blown conflict, and such incidents have happened in the past. In 2001, a US reconnaissance plane collided with a Chinese military aircraft 59 nautical miles off the coast of Hainan Island.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.