Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chinese sub's appearance surprises US battle group

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BEIJING

A Chinese submarine stalked a US Navy aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and was undetected until it surfaced within firing range, the Washington Times reported yesterday.

The Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine was seen within 8km of the carrier USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships on Oct. 26, the newspaper said, citing defense officials.

The surfaced submarine was spotted by a routine surveillance flight by one of the US carrier group's planes, the report said.

The newspaper said the encounter near Okinawa highlighted China's continuing efforts to prepare for a possible future conflict with the US despite the Bush administration's efforts to try to boost relations with the Chinese military.

The submarine encounter with the Kitty Hawk battle group is also an embarrassment to the commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral William Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China, the report said.

A US Navy spokeswoman in Washington had no comment on the newspaper's report.

Disclosure of the surprise encounter comes as the commander of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet, Admiral Gary Roughead, was making his first visit to China, which began over the weekend, the paper said.

The four-star admiral was scheduled to meet senior Chinese military leaders during the week-long visit, the paper said.

Roughead said yesterday that he was seeking to understand the intent of China's naval build-up, which includes a growing submarine fleet and new ships with "blue water" capability.

"When asked if the PLA [People's Liberation Army] navy is a threat, I've been on the record as saying no," Roughead told reporters when asked if China's build-up posed a threat to the US presence in the region or to Taiwan.

"But I really would like to know what the intent is in some of the developments that I see in the PLA navy," he said.

"Clearly the growth in the capacity and capability of the navy since I've first been exposed to it in the [19]90s, the ability to go into the blue water, is very, very clear," he said.

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