Japanese defence officials have identified a vessel that was spotted travelling submerged near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea on 10-11 January as a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Shang-class (Type 093) nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on 15 January.
“Analysis of the shape and noise of the vessel by experts at the ministry show it is the new Shang-class attack submarine,” reported the media outlet.
The report follows the release of an image by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Tokyo on 12 January showing the boat flying a Chinese flag after it had surfaced in the high seas.
Speaking to reporters four days later, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera expressed “serious concerns” about the submarine's move, and accused Beijing of “unilaterally escalating tensions”.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) “issued repeated warnings” informing the boat's crew that they were in the contiguous zone, Onodera was quoted by the Nikkei Asian Review as saying. “It is unacceptable” that the vessel “ignored our warnings and continued its passage,” he added.
Although he did not comment on the possible intention of the submarine, Onodera pointed out that “many” Chinese vessels and aircraft had previously been detected conducting what appeared to be “some kind of training and information-gathering activities in the seas and airspace around Japan”.
The JMSDF had first spotted the Shang-class SSN on 10 January while travelling submerged in the 24 n mile (44 km) contiguous zone east-northeast of Miyako Island, which is located in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture.
The MoD said that the boat left the area the following morning but was seen shortly thereafter entering the contiguous zone northeast of Taisho Island – which is part of the Japanese-controlled, but Chinese-claimed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – where it was joined by a PLAN Jiangkai II-class frigate.
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