Has a Chinese nuclear submarine crashed near the Taiwan Strait? What we know so far

Social media is abuzz that China’s nuclear-powered Type 093 submarine has sunk and all officials have died after the vessel suffered a major accident near the Taiwan Strait. File image/Reuters

It’s worrying times for China. Their economy isn’t doing too well, they are increasingly being isolated from the West and now, there are reports that one of its submarines has sunk after suffering an accident in the Taiwan Strait waters.

Are reports of the sinking true? What do we know of the reported accident that caused the submarine to sink?

We decode what’s going on and attempt to give you the truth.

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A sunken submarine?

On Tuesday morning, social media was abuzz with reports that a Type 093 (Shang class) Chinese People’s Liberation Army nuclear-powered attack submarine had a major accident in the vicinity of the disputed Taiwan Strait and all officials on board the vessel, including seven trainees had died.

Some netizens on the recently-rebranded X site also stated that the Communist Party of China Military Commission headquarters was informed about the accident, which took place in the Yellow Sea area, on 21 August.

One X user, identified as @lude_media posted that China’s president Xi Jinping had been made aware of the incident and that the leader had asked the Joint Operations Command Centre of the Military Commission to investigate the matter.

@lude_media later also added that the accident had taken place in the Yellow Sea and not in the Taiwan Strait.

Another X user, Nepal Correspondence, which calls itself a platform for investigative journalism, also stated that a Type 093 attack nuclear-powered submarine had an accident, and all on board had died in the tragedy.

It, however, stated that the accident took place in Taiwan Strait.

What are officials saying?

There has been no official confirmation on the accident or the deaths of the Chinese officials on board the vessel.

When asked about the same, Taiwan’s ministry of defence also stated that there was no evidence to corroborate the news. Taiwan’s ministry of defence spokesperson Sun Li-fang, according to a report in the Taipei Times, said the nation’s joint intelligence and surveillance apparatus has not detected any evidence of a submarine crash.

The rumour has thus far only circulated on social media, with no official sources confirming the supposed incident thus far, he added, declining to comment further.

Reporting on China’s silence on the issue, @NepCorres wrote on X that Beijing wasn’t just denying the report but also stating that the news was being mistaken for an incident from 2003. “In #Galwan, #China denied its 40+ casualties. Now, it is denying its submarine accident,” read the post.

It’s imperative to note here that China has followed the principle of silence in the past. When the Galwan incident took place in 2020 – China and India troops clashed – Beijing had refuted claims that their personnel had been affected. It was much later that Beijing even admitted to casualties, but maintained that the numbers were not “very heavy.”

These claims had been refuted by Russian and Australian media reports. TASS, the Russian news agency, stated that 45 Chinese soldiers died in the free-style fight, while The Klaxon, an Australian tabloid, reported that China had suffered a devastating loss in the Galwan Valley encounter in 2020.

China-Taiwan ties

The possibility of a Chinese submarine in the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait is quite likely as China has stepped up activity in the area.

Two days ago, Taiwan had said that 25 Chinese air force planes crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line in the past 24 hours, as Beijing was carrying out military drills around the island. China had held air and sea drills around Taiwan last Saturday, in what it said was a “stern warning” after the island’s vice president visited the United States.

Xinhua said the drills were carried out “in the waters and airspace to the north and south-west of Taiwan Island” to test the PLA’s ability “to seize control of air and sea spaces” and fight “in real combat conditions”.

China has been stepping up activity against Taiwan in recent times, with the latter’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, being quoted as saying, “We are taking the Chinese military threat very seriously. I think 2027 is the year that we need to be serious about.”

The comment had come after China’s Xi Jinping had previously emphasised that the Taiwan issue “cannot be passed on from generation to generation”. China has long viewed the neighbouring island as territory of its own and has responded aggressively to any comments made by foreign countries on the issue of Taiwan.

With inputs from agencies

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