President Hu, world leaders send condolences over submarine mishap
BEIJING: Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the faster modernization of the country’s navy, while sending condolences to the families of 70 officers and sailors killed in a submarine accident off the coast of China, state press said Sunday.
“The accident of submarine number 361 is a great loss to the navy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the bravery of all officers and sailors aboard has proved their patriotism,” Mr Hu was quoted by the PLA Daily as saying Saturday.
“We should turn our mourning into strength and learn from the accident in order to advance the capacity of our national defence and speed up the modernization drive of the PLA.”
The mysterious accident to the conventional Ming-class submarine took place after the boat developed mechanical problems during a training exercise in the Bohai Sea near eastern Shandong province.
Analysts described it as the first reported major submarine accident since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.
It was not clear when the accident happened, although military chief Jiang Zemin sent a condolence message dated May 2 to family members of the dead officers and seamen.
Also sending condolences to the families of the victims in messages to Mr Hu, were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhared Schroeder, Xinhua reported in a separate dispatch.
For most of its history, the People’s Army Liberation Navy (PLAN) submarine fleet has consisted of small coastal patrol submarines and domestically produced versions of the Soviet Romeo-class sub.
China began producing submarines of its own design in the 1970s.
The first of these was the Ming-class (Type 035), produced from 1971 to 1979, with production resuming again in 1987. —AFP