Seventy Chinese sailors have been killed in an accident aboard a conventional submarine off the Chinese coast, the Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.
The No. 361 submarine was taking part in a drill east of the the Neichangshan islands when it was hit by mechanical problems, Xinhua said, quoting navy sources.
It said the vessel was being towed to an unidentified port, but gave no further details as to what the mechanical problems were or how the crewmen died.
It was not clear when the accident happened, although military chief Jiang Zemin sent a condolence message dated May 2 to family members of the dead officers and seamen.
While China has a substantial submarine fleet, many of the vessels are believed to be relatively old.
They were reportedly negotiating with Russia last year to buy eight 636 Kilo-class vessels, equipped with anti-ship missile systems, in a US$1.6 billion deal.
According to reports, China's own submarine manufacturing program is in difficulty, particularly its efforts to develop the Song class guided-missile submarine.