China accuses US of ‘lack of transparency’ over sub accident

BEIJING — China on Tuesday accused the U.S. of a “lack of transparency and responsibility” regarding an accident in the South China Sea involving a Navy submarine last month.

At a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the U.S. should provide full details of the incident that has revived a dispute between the two countries over the strategic waterway.

“We once again urge the U.S. to give a detailed account of the accident,” he said.

Two U.S. Navy officials speaking on condition of anonymity on Monday said the service had determined the nuclear-powered USS Connecticut struck a seamount, or underwater mountain.

The Navy has yet to fully explain how or why the sub struck the seamount or to reveal the extent of damage to the Seawolf-class submarine.

Wang described what he called a “lack of transparency and responsibility” by the U.S. in following up with the incident.

He said the U.S. has so far failed to offer “a clear explanation” of what the Navy nuclear submarine was doing in the area, as well as “the specific location of the accident, whether it was in another country’s exclusive economic zone or even territorial waters, whether it caused a nuclear leak or damaged marine environment.”

China claims sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of international trade pass each year. While six countries claim exclusive economic zones, islands and atolls in the South China Sea, the U.S. demands that navigation freedom be preserved, and reinforces this with regular naval patrols, military flights, and training missions throughout the region.

The Navy has said the submarine’s nuclear reactor and propulsion system were not damaged. Crew suffered minor and moderate injuries in the collision. USNI News was the first to report the collision. It said that damage to the forward portion of the submarine’s sub had occurred, as well as to its ballast tanks.

The incident happened on Oct. 2 but was not reported by the Navy until five days later. It was sent to Guam by the Navy for damage assessment.

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