China is demanding to know answers and says it's deeply "concerned" over the incident with the US nuclear submarine in international waters in the Indo-Pacific which was revealed for the first time Thursday. A Navy-affiliated news outlet reported that a US nuclear attack submarine had been damaged in the Western Pacific after suffering an "underwater collision" - although it's not clear what the sub collided with. The collision took place on Oct. 2.
"China is seriously concerned over this incident," China's foreign ministry's spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday. He urged immediate transparency over the incident, "including the exact location of the incident, the purpose of this trip, and details of what the submarine encountered," according to the statement.
However, no other follow-up details were issued since the initial US Navy report, only that the vessel is in a "safe and stable" condition. Presumably China and other regional countries could be suspicious or concerned that the incident is bigger than what the US is letting on - for example there's the question, albeit unlikely, of nuclear material leakage. Reports are indicating it happened somewhere in the South China Sea.
The Seawolf-class nuclear submarine the USS Connecticut is now returning to port in the US 7th Fleet in Guam, where it's expected to arrive within the next day. The Navy says the safety of the crew remains its top priority. A Navy official said 11 sailors were injured during the incident, suffering moderate to minor injuries.
As BBC notes, "the last known incident where a submerged US submarine struck another underwater object was in 2005, when the USS San Francisco hit an underwater mountain at full speed near Guam. One sailor died in the incident."
And further an analysts interviewed in BBC said whatever the submarine struck had to be "something big" to cause nearly a dozen injuries to crew:
Alexander Neill, a Singapore-based defence and security expert, told the BBC the number of injuries caused by the collision suggested the submarine probably "hit something big" and was "going really fast".
The incident, he said, was "uncommon but not unheard of" and had exposed how busy the area was with military activities.
Neill added of the growing and crowded ship traffic situation in the region: "The South China Sea has been increasingly saturated with naval vessels from a number of different countries. While there's been a lot of show of force by surface vessels you don't see the level of activity under the surface."
Without doubt if the situation were reversed - for example if a Chinese or Russian nuclear submarine had an accident in the Atlantic Ocean or somewhere off the US coast, Washington would be insistent on answers.