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A Chinese Type 094 or Jin-class nuclear submarine was spotted surfacing in the shallow waters of the Taiwan Strait by crew members of a Taiwanese squid boat. The Jin class submarines, of which there are six in service, are nuclear-powered and capable of launching ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. This incident marks at least the fourth time a Chinese submarine has been seen in the Taiwan Strait since July 2019, despite submarines usually avoiding surfacing outside of port. The estimated location of the submarine was just south of Taiwan’s Kinmen islands and west of the Penghu archipelago.

The presence of the Chinese submarine in the Taiwan Strait has raised concerns due to the potential threats it poses to regional security. The submarine was likely travelling north from the South China Sea to attend repairs at the Bohai Sea shipyard in Liaoning province. The relatively shallow depth of the Taiwan Strait, coupled with the possibility of wreckage on the seafloor, may have led the submarine to surface. China’s Jin class submarines are equipped with the JL-3 missile, which has a range of over 6,000 miles and can target the continental United States.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry did not immediately provide a comment on the incident, but confirmed that they were aware of the presence of the Chinese submarine. Taiwan’s armed forces were reported to have deployed assets to surveil and monitor the submarine’s movements. The submarine’s presence in the Taiwan Strait coincided with Taiwan’s largest annual war games, the Han Kuang exercises, but analysts suggest that the submarine’s appearance was unrelated to the military exercises. This incident highlights the ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan in the region.

The Chinese military’s submarine force has recently been more active in the Taiwan Strait, further complicating the already tense situation in the region. Beijing has been increasing its presence in the strait since the visit of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to Taipei two years ago, violating the tacit buffer that had previously kept forces from meeting in the waters. The potential hazards of submarines traversing the Taiwan Strait, due to its shallow depth and potential wreckage, add to the complexity of the situation. China’s efforts to field more advanced and stealthy submarines in the future could further escalate tensions in the region.

In response to the incident, analysts suggest that China is expected to replace the Type 094 submarines with newer models such as the Type 095 and Type 096 nuclear submarines. These new submarines are intended to rival American counterparts in terms of stealth capabilities and technological advancements. However, these next-generation submarines are not expected to enter service until the end of the decade. The ongoing developments in China’s submarine fleet, coupled with their increased presence in the Taiwan Strait, underscore the evolving security challenges in the region. The incident also reflects the broader strategic competition between China and the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.

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