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China’s nuclear submarine unusually surfaced near the Taiwan Strait


A Chinese nuclear submarine was spotted floating in the Taiwan Strait on November 29, a US defense analyst said based on satellite images. This rare activity is believed to be a signal sent to Washington.

Analyst HISutton of the US Naval Institute posted images provided by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite showing a nuclear submarine surfaced in the Taiwan Strait, accompanied by a vessel.

“Although the image taken by Sentinel-2 has low resolution, the image obtained shows the characteristics of a submarine with a typical arc. Its length matches the size of Type 094 …”, Mr. Sutton wrote on his personal website.

The Sentinel-2 image shows a Chinese ballistic missile submarine and an escort vessel in the Taiwan Strait, according to a US defence analyst. Photo: H.I. Sutton/Twitter
The Sentinel-2 image shows a Chinese ballistic missile submarine and an escort vessel in the Taiwan Strait, according to a US defence analyst. Photo: H.I. Sutton/Twitter

This expert analyzed this ship moving from the Chinese Navy base in Yulin on Hainan Island. This could be a routine trip, he said, and that the Chinese submarines are returning to the Bohai Sea shipyard for “repair and overhaul”.

Mr. Collin Koh, a military analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that this move by the Chinese submarine could be to send a deterrent signal to the US over the Taiwan issue.

Military experts say that ballistic missile submarines rarely surface, especially with modern Chinese military ships like the Type 094.

These Jin-class submarines carry JL-2 ballistic missiles, which have a range of about 7,000km, meaning they can hit the entire northeast of the United States. Particularly, Type 094A, China’s latest submarine version, entered service in April 2021 and is said to carry the more powerful JL-3 missile, with a range of up to 10,000km.

“The missiles carried by the Type 094 submarine are designed to target the US. It doesn’t make any sense for the submarine to surface while moving, unless the Chinese military wants to send a different message,” Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Tong, told to SCMP.

Also on November 28, a US Navy P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft flew from Misawa Air Base in Japan to the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Initiative (SCSPI). Beijing confirmed.

The organization posted on Weibo that the US plane flew close to only 30km from the city of Fuzhou in southeastern China. This is where the PLA Air Force base is located, from which aircraft are often dispatched to humiliate Taiwan.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and does not rule out the possibility of using force to bring the self-ruled island under its control. Tensions between the two sides of the strait are increasing as Beijing repeatedly sends aircraft into the island’s air defense identification zone and increases diplomatic pressure. Meanwhile, the US is developing closer ties with Taiwan.

Mr. Collin Koh, a military analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that this move by the Chinese submarine could be to send a deterrent signal to the US over the Taiwan issue.

However, Lu Li-shih, a former lecturer at Taiwan’s National Defense Academy, thinks something might have happened to the Type 094 ship, forcing it to surface for safety.

Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Yuan Wang Institute of Science and Technology in Beijing, said that the Taiwan Strait connecting the East China Sea and the South China Sea has complex underground topography with active submarine volcanoes, so ” unfriendly” to submarines.

Zhou said that the Chinese forces intended to pass through the Bashi Strait when moving from the north to the south, or through the Miyako Strait. “But passing through the Taiwan Strait will save time for the submarine to return to the Bohai shipyard for an upgrade or overhaul,” Zhou said.

Last month, the US submarine USS Connecticut was said to have been floating for a week to return to its base in Guam after colliding with an underground structure in the South China Sea, injuring 11 sailors.


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