China’s new n-submarine base sets off alarm bells

China has deployed its latest Jin class nuclear submarine at a massive new military facility at Sanya on the Hainan Island in South China Sea — its newest and nearest naval base to India.

While the Indian Navy had been aware about the upcoming military facility for some time, satellite images for the first time show the extent of the base and the fact that the Jin Class submarine, which carries 12 nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, has been deployed at Hainan.

This has raised concern as the Chinese naval base, complete with an underground facility that can hide the movement of submarines from spy satellites, is barely 1,200 nautical miles from the strategic Malacca Strait and an access route to the Indian Ocean — a region that New Delhi considers its personal security responsibility.

Chinese nuclear submarines have never yet operated in the Indian Ocean but the facility — which is 2,000 nautical miles away from the Andaman Islands — will be its nearest access point to the region.

Details about the Hainan naval base have been widely reported but satellite images (dated February this year) obtained by nuclear weapons watchdog Federation of American Scientists (FAS) for the first time show a sea entrance to an underground facility and a Jin class submarine moored at the base.

This, experts say, could give China the capability to cut off Malacca Strait and the South China Sea for commercial traffic in event of a crisis. Experts say that the base also seems to have a demagnetization facility which makes submarines more stealthy and difficult to detect.

While India has taken note of the event, military analysts say that the South China Sea is a difficult place to operate submarines and China has not yet developed the expertise to operate nuclear submarines far away from mainland.

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