Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chinese sub sighted in June: MND

CLOSE ENCOUNTER The defense ministry confirmed that a Chinese nuclear sub had surfaced near five navy vessels, but denied that alert levels had been raised

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday confirmed a news report that a nuclear submarine from China had surfaced near navy vessels and passed through waters off Kinmen in late June.

The navy monitored the process by radar and no conflicts occurred during the incident, the ministry added.

"The Chinese submarine surfaced when it passed through the country's waters. According to international practice, a submarine that comes to the surface on a waterway is showing that it is not hostile, so the navy monitored its passage and did not raise security levels," ministry spokesman Rear Admiral Liou Chih-chien (劉志堅) said yesterday.

Liou made the remarks in response to a report in a local Chinese-language newspaper yesterday that a fleet group consisting of two Cheng Kung class frigates and three landing ships in July encountered a submarine that had surfaced and was moving toward the fleet.

While confirming that the event had occurred, Liou said it had taken place in late June, not July.

Liou said that several of the navy's vessels remained in the area as the submarine passed through waters off Kinmen. They monitored the submarine by radar, but did not confront it, Liou said.

According to the newspaper report, the vessels had just finished a mission in Kinmen and were near Kinmen's Liaoluo Harbor, headed for Kaohsiung naval base, when a Cheng Kung class frigate discovered the submarine.

The fleet swiftly identified it as a Chinese Han-class nuclear-powered submarine by its number "045," the report said.

Because the submarine did not reduce its speed or turn away, and it was only 6km away from the fleet, the vessels immediately reported the matter to the ministry and then raised their alert level, staying at the higher level of security for 10 minutes, the paper said.

Liou, however, denied that alert levels had been raised.

Three gun boats were sent from Kinmen to support the fleet as the submarine approached, the paper said, but to avoid a confrontation, the fleet decided to make way so the submarine could pass.

The paper, citing remarks by an unidentified navy official, said Han-class submarines are deployed in China's North Sea Fleet based at Qingdao in Shandong Province, and these submarines are rarely seen in south China.

Ou Si-fu (歐錫富), a researcher with the Institute for National Policy Research, said Han-class (or Type 091) nuclear-powered attack submarines are the first generation of Chinese nuclear attack submarines, and China's navy was believed to have about five of this type of submarine.

Ou said China is reportedly building a new type of nuclear attack submarine -- Type 093 -- to replace the obsolete Han-class submarine, with the first one expected to be in service late this year.

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