Authorities recognized it, but several days after the incident occurred: a US nuclear submarine struck an “unknown object.”
While it was immersed in waters of the Asia-Pacific region, on October 2, the mysterious collision occurred that left several US Navy members injured.
It is not yet clear what happened, but the submarine remained “fully operational.”
However, the place where it occurred, the disputed mar from South China, and the little information that has been revealed about the case has generated an outcry from Beijing.
What is known?
Officials cited by the US press, who were not identified, reported that the collision occurred in international waters last Saturday.
They limited themselves to reporting that the submarine USS Connecticut collided with an “unknown object” and that 11 crew members had “moderate” injuries that were not life threatening, according to the AP agency.
All of them were treated on board the submarine.
They assured that the USS Connecticut It did not collide with another submarine, but could be a boat, a sunken container or another unknown object.
In a brief statement, the US Navy indicated that the extent of the damage was still being assessed and that the nuclear power plant and the spaces of the submarine had not been affected.
What was the submarine doing there?
Officials indicated that the incident occurred while the submarine performed routine operations and that the Navy did not make the news public before Thursday for operational security.
Alexander Neill, a Singapore-based security and defense expert, told the BBC that the number of injuries caused by the collision suggests that the submarine it probably “crashed into something big” and that it was “going too fast”.
China said the submarine was headed for the island of Guam, a US territory in the Pacific.
The incident, he said, was “rare, but not unprecedented” in a region with many military activities.
“The South China Sea has been increasingly saturated with naval vessels from several different countries. While there has been a lot of show of force from the surface craft, you don’t see the level of activity below the surface, ”Neill explained.
USNI News, a site specializing in the United States Navy, said the last known incident in which a submerged US submarine collided with another underwater object was in 2005.
On that occasion, the USS San Francisco crashed into a seamount at full speed near the island of Guam. One crew member died in the incident.
After knowing the incident, this Friday Beijing expressed its “grave concern” about what happened and demanded explanations from Washington.
The US must clarify the “exact location of the incident, the intent of the US navigation, the details of the incident, what the submarine collided with, whether it caused a nuclear leak and whether it damaged the local marine environment“Said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, according to the agency Xinhua.
“For a long time, the United States has been causing trouble and creating tension in the South China Sea in the name of freedom of navigation, which is the root cause of the incident and poses serious threats and significant risks to regional peace and stability,” the spokesperson said.
The official said he was forced to question Washington as, in his view, the details of the incident were “deliberately” withheld.
Why is the South China Sea so contested?
The USS Connecticut operated in one of the most disputed regions in the world.
Beijing claims dominance over most of the South China Sea, but neighboring countries and the United States are opposed to it.
Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam They have been contesting sovereignty over most of that maritime region for decades, but the tension has steadily increased in recent years.
The United States has backed many of these countries in this territorial dispute.
The incident comes just weeks after the US, UK and Australia signed the agreement. Aukus, a landmark security pact for the Asia-Pacific region seen by analysts as an effort to counter China.
In parallel, the adviser of National Security of the United States, Jake Sullivan, told the BBC that he is “deeply concerned” by the actions that undermine the peace in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the Taiwanese island from mainland China.
His words came after China sent a record number of military aircraft to Taiwan’s air defense zone for the fourth day in a row.
Now you can receive notifications from BBC News Mundo. Download our app and activate them so you don’t miss our best content.