Navy investigation into submarine accident brings criticism from China

November 2, 2021
The Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut, seen here in a 2012 file photo, arrives at Naval Base Kitsap after completing a deployment.

  • China is accusing the U.S. of a “lack of transparency” over the nuclear-powered submarine’s accident.
  • Eleven sailors aboard the USS Connecticut were injured in the Oct. 2 incident in the South China Sea.
  • The Connecticut is part of the Seawolf class, the most potent and secretive in the Navy.

The USS Connecticut struck an “uncharted seamount” in early October, damaging the Washington state-based submarine and injuring 11 sailors, according to a U.S. Navy investigation.

The U.S. nuclear-powered vessel was operating in the disputed waters of the South China Sea at the time of the Oct. 2 incident, and China on Tuesday accused the U.S. of a “lack of transparency and responsibility.”

The Navy investigation is now in the hands of Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of the Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet, who will decide on any disciplinary action, Thomas’ spokeswoman, Hayley Sims, told the Kitsap Sun of the USA TODAY Network on Monday. 

A seamount is “an underwater mountain formed by volcanic activity,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Two sailors among the Connecticut’s crew of about 140 suffered “moderate” injuries but did not require hospitalization; the rest were mostly cuts and scrapes, the Navy said. 

The vessel sailed after the accident to Guam, where Navy officials are working to assess and repair damages.

China’s government has criticized the Navy’s response, calling the information released about the accident a “brief and vague statement issued by the U.S. military with procrastination.”

The incident happened on Oct. 2 but was not reported by the Navy until five days later.

“We once again urge the U.S. to give a detailed account of the accident,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a Tuesday briefing.

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Last month, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said China and other Asian countries were “justified” to ask about the Connecticut’s activities before the accident.

“As the party directly involved, the onus is on the US to give a detailed explanation in response to the concerns and doubts of regional countries and the international community,” he said. 

The Pentagon has said that providing information about the incident shows the Navy isn’t attempting to hide what occurred. 

“It’s an odd way of covering something up when you put a press release out about it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Oct. 12

The Connecticut is one of three submarines that are part of the Seawolf class, the most potent and secretive in the Navy. All three are homeported in Kitsap County, Washington.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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