Recent revelations suggest a possible submarine incident in China, while Li Shangfu , Minister of Defense, remains noticeably absent.
Chinese Ministry of Defense: Silence and absence
Li Shangfu, head of the Ministry of Defense in China, has remained distant from the public view, fueling speculation about a possible cover-up of an underwater accident.
Expert analysis suggests Beijing could be taking steps to hide any mishaps. Furthermore, it is postulated that the minister is under investigation and has been relieved of his official duties.
These circumstances could indicate emerging tensions within the Chinese Communist Party.
Relationship between the submarine accident and the minister
Whether the minister’s absence is directly related to the alleged submarine incident is debated. Meanwhile, Taiwan has shown changes in China’s defensive posture, although without confirming the aforementioned accident.
Contrary to the first assumption, which placed the incident in the Taiwan Strait, recent information points to the Yellow Sea as the event’s location.
The Taiwanese high command has declined to comment, citing the confidential nature of the matter.
Details of the submarine involved
The incident is associated with the Type 093 or Shang Class nuclear submarine, a key piece of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The first reports emerged in late August, with speculation about the fate of its 100-person crew. China currently operates six of these nuclear submarines.
The Shang Class represents China’s second generation of nuclear attack submarines, serving as the core of its underwater navy. Advanced versions such as the Type 093A and Type 093B are evolutions of the original Type 093.
The possible incident occurred shortly after China began large-scale military exercises near Taiwan, in a climate of growing tension with the United States and Taiwan itself.
The specialists consulted believe that China, with its propensity to show strength, will try to minimize the matter. However, such incidents usually reveal themselves eventually. “You can hide it, but for how long,” said Vice Admiral AB Singh of the Indian Navy.
Another officer recalled China’s initial opacity in the Galwan Valley confrontation, highlighting the eventual disclosure of the facts.
China and its History of Military Concealment
The post-Galwan scenario and the initial opacity about the COVID pandemic undermined global trust in China‘s transparency. The withholding of information in critical military events generates geopolitical tensions.
According to sources, “Incidents of this magnitude, especially with victims, cannot remain hidden indefinitely. “Intelligence agencies would surely already be aware if a sinking had occurred.”
The accuracy of the facts remains elusive. If the submarine was submerged during the incident, it likely avoided satellite detection.
Submarine Detection and Associated Complications
The official explains: “If a submarine submerges completely, it will evade satellite observation. However, multiple mechanisms would detect the absence of a vessel of this type. “In areas like the Taiwan Strait, given its shallow depth, divers can even investigate if the exact location is known.”
The absent crew and the testimony of their families add to the evidence. The return of the submarine and the count of those present in the port can also be monitored via satellite.
Underwater tragedies present unique challenges due to the difficulty of conducting timely rescues. These vehicles’ voluntary nature and extreme conditions make them suitable only for highly trained and resilient individuals.
Submarine Operations and Protocols
Conventional diesel submarines require surfacing every 24 hours to recharge batteries. On the other hand, nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) have prolonged submergence capabilities, complicating rescue operations in emergency situations.
Additionally, the submarines follow a “Check” protocol, issuing a report every 24 hours. The frequency can be preset, and it can be omitted in critical missions. Therefore, the crew could be isolated in cases of emergency.
The nature of the mission the Chinese SSN in question was on is still unknown.
Background of Underwater Tragedies
In 2021, the Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402 disappeared with 53 crew members. In 2017, the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan disappeared with 44 crew members, and its remains were found a year later at a depth of 800 meters.
The PLA suffered a significant tragedy in 2003 when a submarine off the northeast coast of China killed 70 individuals.
In 2000, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank following internal explosions in the Barents Sea. Of the 118 crew members, 23 managed to take temporary shelter before succumbing.