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China displays nuclear submarine fleet for first time

The PLA Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine prepares to dive in Qingdao, East China's Shandong province, Oct 27, 2013. Photo: Xinhua.

BEIJING (PTI): China has displayed its nuclear submarines for the first time in over four decades to showcase their "excellent safety" record as part of a naval drill.

The submarines were shown as taking part in exercises along with naval ships and helicopters.

The drill is the first open-sea drill in which maritime and air forces from all three of China's fleets have taken part, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

"We are China's first nuclear submarine force, and the 42 years since our establishment have witnessed our success in avoiding nuclear accidents," Rear Admiral Gao Feng, commander of one of the People's Liberation Army navy's submarine bases, told reporters in Qingdao port.

While state television has shown the footage of the submarines taking part in the exercises, which according to the official media is the first time in 42 years ever since it began inducting nuclear submarines in the fleet, the print media highlighted its safety track with no accident record.

The exercises in the west Pacific went on "despite foreign disturbance", the People's Liberation Army said.

Foreign military vessels and reconnaissance aircraft, reportedly from Japan and US remained in the exercise area for an undue time monitoring Chinese activity in the close distance and seriously disturbing the naval drill, reports said.

Chinese authorities had previously publicised the exercise areas via international maritime organisations in accordance with international practice, alerting foreign vessels and planes to take precautions.

Though the media has not revealed the numbers of nuclear subs, international defence experts estimate it has eight to 10 subs backed by 50 to 60 diesel and electric submarines.

The strength of the Chinese navy was estimated to be around 2.25 lakh personnel.

The decision to display N-Subs for the first time shows China's confidence in the defence build-up and capability, defence analysts said. It also demonstrates the transparency of China's nuclear assets, which the west is demonstrating for long, they said.

Handling the nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear weapons is a tremendous achievement because almost all of the other naval powers in the world, including the US and Russia, have had nuclear accidents on nuclear submarines, Gao said.


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