The Chinese Foreign Ministry has expressed its concern about an incident in the South China Sea in which a US submarine collided with an “unknown” object, sustaining significant damage and injuring several mariners.

Speaking on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called on the US to clarify details concerning the USS ‘Connecticut’, a nuclear-powered Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine, which struck an unidentified object while submerged in the South China Sea on October 2. 

Zhao requested that the US confirm the specific location of the accident, the vessel’s intentions and more details about the collision itself, including whether it caused a leak of nuclear material. The spokesman also asked if the submarine had damaged the local marine environment. 

He said China and its neighbors had a right to question Washington over the incident and seek the truth. “The United States deliberately delayed and concealed details of the accident, demonstrating irresponsibility and a lack of transparency,” the spokesman told gathered media. 

Zhao said the root cause of the incident was the US’ insistence on sailing through the Beijing-claimed South China Sea under the banner of freedom of navigation. 

He also raised the US and UK’s recent deal with Australia, under the AUKUS pact, to deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra on the premise of strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. 

Zhao said Beijing was concerned the move would create even more nuclear proliferation and accident risks in the region, while also threatening to “induce an arms race” and “undermine the construction of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia.” 

On Thursday, the US Navy reported that the ‘Connecticut’ was making its way to the American outpost of Guam after hitting an “unknown” object in the South China Sea.  

“The submarine remains in safe and stable condition,” the Navy’s Pacific Fleet said in a statement. “USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational.”

Some crew members sustained injuries, although none were considered life-threatening. 

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