China says its submarine docked in Sri Lanka ‘for replenishment’

November 28, 2014 02:14 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST - BEIJING

China has clarified that one of its submarine, on an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast, had docked on its onward and return journey to Sri Lanka for replenishment.

The Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman said during a press briefing on Thursday said that the submarine together with a naval escort taskforce had visited the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast. He added: “On its way to and back from the mission area, the submarine made technical docking in Sri Lanka twice, and it is a quite common practice for submarines of world navies to dock at certain ports and conduct replenishment.”

The publication IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly had earlier reported that a Chinese Type 039 (Song)-class submarine, escorting People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, had docked at the Colombo International Container Terminal.

In the Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj said in response to a written question that, “A conventional Chinese submarine berthed at Colombo Port from September 7-13 and October 31-November 6, 2014.” She added: “Government of Sri Lanka has informed that the submarine visited Colombo for replenishment purposes and has reassured that the government of Sri Lanka will not do anything against the security interest of India.”

China is not the first country to deploy submarines as part of counter-piracy missions in the Indian Ocean. A NATO anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden had included a Dutch Walrus class submarine between August and December 2010, the website of the Somali Anti-Piracy Information Center (SAPIC) is reporting. The Dutch Navy also deployed its submarine HNLMS Bruinvis in the Gulf of Aden later between June and December 2012.

The spokesman trashed reports that China was building a permanent base at Walvis Bay in Namibia. He asserted that the report was “utterly groundless” and had cited an unofficial commentary that had been posted on the internet two years ago. He also observed that China, “currently” did not have any foreign military base abroad.

The Chinese insist that they are building “a modern military force with Chinese characteristics”. Speaking last week at the fifth Xiangshan forum, a security conference held in Beijing, Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan observed that China had decided “to strengthen the reform of China’s national defence and armed forces”, which was in tune with the “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) — the term defining the radical transformation of militaries brought about by the infusion of hi-technology.

Referring specifically to the Asia-Pacific — an area where the United States is beefing up military forces under the “Asia Pivot” doctrine — Gen. Chang said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had last May had “put forward an Asian security concept that calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” which will yield “win-win results”.

Gen. Chang pointed out that inter-state disputes are “to be expected,” but “the key is to strengthen management and effectively prevent and resolve crises”.

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