China has said that the root cause of the U.S. Navy submarine’s collision with an unknown object in the South China Sea is the latter’s quest for free passage through waters claimed by coastal nations as their exclusive territory.
“The U.S. has been stirring up trouble and creating tensions in the South China Sea in the name of Freedom of Navigation (FON), which is the root cause of the incident and poses serious threats and major risks to regional peace and stability,” Zhao Lijian, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, remarked Friday.
He was referring to the collision of the U.S. Navy’s Seawolf-class nuclear-powered submarine into an unknown object in the South China Sea.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s FON Program challenges what the U.S. considers to be excessive territorial claims on the world's oceans and airspace. The position of the United States is that all nations must obey the international law of the sea, as codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The U.S. has been periodically sending its warships and aircraft through the disputed South China Sea, asserting FON.
“The U.S. should clarify an incident involving a U.S. nuclear submarine, including the exact location of the incident, the intention of the U.S. navigation, details of the incident, what the submarine collided with, whether it caused nuclear leakage, and whether it damaged the local marine environment,” the Chinese official stated.
Zhao added the U.S. has deliberately stalled and concealed the details of the incident, lacking transparency and responsibility. “China and countries around the South China Sea have no choice but to question the truth of the incident and its intentions.”
The U.S. and the UK recently decided on nuclear submarine cooperation with Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state, dispatching nuclear submarines to the Asia-Pacific region without scruples, said Zhao.
This would create the risk of nuclear proliferation, induce arms race, undermine the construction of a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia, and dramatically increase the chances of nuclear accidents, he said.
“The U.S. should abandon its old Cold War mentality, zero-sum game thoughts, and narrow-minded geopolitical ideas, and stop these wrong practices that undermine regional peace, stability, and development," Zhao said.