The undersea arms race

Maritime spats ‘stirring undersea arms race’

Raul Dancel

Territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea are fuelling a build-up in submarine fleets that can spark more frequent armed clashes in the already volatile waters, according to a US-based think-tank.

“The currency of naval power in the ESCS (East and South China seas) has become the submarine,” Wikistrat, a consultancy that relies on “crowdsourced” analysts, said in its latest “simulation report”.

With disputes in the region unlikely to be resolved soon via diplomacy, China, Japan and Vietnam will keep sending submarines to the East and South China seas in the next six years at least, it said. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It has a dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

Wikistrat said China, which has a current force of 64 diesel and nuclear-powered submarines, deployed three Jin-class ballistic missile submarines to the South China Sea earlier this year.

Vietnam, meanwhile, has taken possession of three Kilo-class attack submarines it purchased from Russia that it plans to send to the South China Sea next year.

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