Oct 21, 2021 / 20:21

Vietnam voices over USS Connecticut incident in South China Sea

The mishap has injured more than 10 sailors, but nobody was taken off the sub.

Vietnam spoke of USS Connecticut’s collision in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Hanoi) two weeks after the Pentagon announced the submarine crash.

 The seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) is underway in the Pacific Ocean on Nov 17, 2009. Photo: US Navy

In a press conference on Oct 21, Spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Hanoi has been informed of the news and maritime activities deployed by the naval forces of countries need to ensure security and safety in the East Sea.

“Vietnam believes that all activities at sea need to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 and other relevant regulations,” Hang said in a statement.

She emphasized that the naval activities in the sea should contribute to regional peace, stability, and security.

The submarine crash happened on Oct 2 when USS Connecticut nuclear-powered attack submarine “struck an unidentified object” while operating at depth in the South China Sea (SCS), one of two adjoining bodies of water where the US and its allies have repeatedly challenged China’s territorial claims.

Almost a dozen sailors got injured but nobody was taken off the sub after the mishap, which was reported by the US Department of Defense five days later.

According to the US Navy, Connecticut surfaced under its own power and was expected to arrive soon in Guam for a full assessment of the damage.

The submarine itself, one of almost 70 in the US Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet, “remains in a safe and stable condition,” according to the Navy statement. Its nuclear propulsion system and related areas “were not affected and remain fully operational.”

China’s Global Times newspaper reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had voiced “grave concerns” about the incident, quoting Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian who urged the US to provide details and the purpose of cruising.

In the latest move, Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesperson Tan Kefei on Oct 19 called the US notice of the incident “brief and ambitious” and required further clarification.

China routinely protests and condemns “freedom of navigation” missions by US vessels close to islands, reefs, and other sites in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing. 

Commissioned in 1998, USS Connecticut (SSN-22) is one of three Seawolf-class boats in active service. The sub has an overall length of 353 feet (107 meters) and can hold up to 50 weapons in its torpedo room. It is described as “exceptionally quiet, fast, well-armed, and equipped with advanced sensors.”