https://www.bbc.com-Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The USS Connecticut leaves port in 2018.
More than a dozen US sailors have been injured after a nuclear submarine hit an “unknown object” while submerged in waters around the South China Sea.
Fifteen sailors received minor injuries when the USS Connecticut collided with the object on Saturday, US officials said.
The incident comes as tensions mount in the region over Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
Officials said it was unclear what had caused the collision.
A US Navy spokesperson said it is now headed towards the US territory of Guam.
“USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational,” a Navy spokesperson said in a statement. “The extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed. The US Navy has not requested assistance.”
The USS Connecticut was operating in waters around the South China Sea, one of the most disputed regions in the world. China claims most of it but surrounding countries and the US disagree.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have all been contesting China’s claim to almost all of the Sea for decades but tension steadily increased in recent years.
The US has backed many of these countries in this territorial dispute.
The incident comes just weeks after the US, UK and Australia agreed a historic security pact in the Asia-Pacific, in what’s seen as an effort to counter China. The Aukus pact will see the US share information with Australia to construct its own nuclear powered submarines.
Meanwhile, the US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, said that he was “deeply concerned” about actions that undermine peace across the Taiwan strait. He was speaking after China sent a record number of military jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone for the fourth day running.
Asked whether the US was prepared to take military action to defend Taiwan, Mr Sullivan said: “Let me just say this, we are going to take action now to try to prevent that day from ever coming to pass.”
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s defence minister said that China could be ready to launch a “full-scale” invasion of the island by 2025.