South China Sea: French Navy deploy nuclear-powered attack submarine in disputed waters

The French Navy recently revealed a nuclear-powered attack submarine had returned safely following a mission to the South China Sea, the show of strength comes amid worsening tensions between China and neighboring powers in the region over control over a string of strategic islands. The seven months deployment saw the Rubis-class sub navigate through the hotly contested waters as the Chinese Military look to push their strategic claims over the geopolitical flashpoint.

French submarine captain Antoine Delaveau told Navy News that the submarine had managed to operate partly undetected.

He said the crew has sailed the vessel, named Émeraude, “quite stealthily.”

The commander added that the submarine had surfaced before moving through the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

Captian Delaveau reported that the Émeraude had been able to cross the South China Sea without incident.

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He told Navy News the submarine’s objective had been to reinforce international navigational treaties by “sailing freely” through the seas which are currently contested between China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The successful mission came as tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated dramatically after footage emerged from officers onboard a US Navy warship “stalking” a Chinese military aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

Leaked onto social media, the video shows a Chinese military aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, carrying out military drills just a few thousand metres away from the US vessel.

One analyst, Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy, said the photo was a type of “cognitive warfare” from the US as tensions in the East and South China Soar grow

He said: “In the photo, Commander Briggs looks very relaxed with his feet up watching the Liaoning ship just a few thousand yards away, while his deputy is also sitting beside him, showing they take their PLA counterparts lightly.

“This staged photograph is definitely ‘cognitive warfare’ to show the US doesn’t regard the PLA as an immediate threat.”

Meanwhile, Andrei Chang, the editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Defence Review, said the photo was a “warning to the PLA” that the US was thoroughly informed about the Liaoning strike group.

British Military chiefs hope the new aircraft carrier strike group, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, would also act as a check against aggressive actions by China.

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The military ship is due to sail through the Suez Canal and past Singapore before arriving in the region this summer.

Tom Sharpe, a former Royal Navy officer said “the eyes of allies and adversaries alike” will be watching the deployment, expected in the coming weeks.

He added: “Get this deployment – and the messaging – right, and British hard and soft power will be increased.

“But get it wrong and Britain’s standing on the world stage could be diminished.”

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