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Report: Chinese navy has new sub base in Pacific

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Chinese navy has a new submarine base on Hainan Island, according to the latest Defense Department report on Chinese military power.

The report comes about two weeks after a Military Sealift Command contract surveillance ship was accosted by five Chinese vessels about 75 miles south of Hainan Island.

"The base appears large enough to accommodate a mix of attack and ballistic missile submarines and advanced surface combatant ships," the report said.

"The port, which has underground facilities, would provide the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy with direct access to vital international sea lanes, and offers the potential for stealthy deployment of submarines into the deep waters of the South China Sea."

On March 8, the USNS Impeccable was in the region of Hainan Island when it was surrounded by five Chinese vessels while the ship was in international waters. One vessel got so close that the Impeccable had to spray the Chinese crew with fire hoses. The Chinese also tried to snare the Impeccable’s sonar equipment.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates later said he hoped diplomatic exchanges that resulted from China’s "aggressive acts" against the Impeccable would prevent future incidents.

Neither U.S. Pacific Command nor U.S. Pacific Fleet had further information on the submarine base.

The new base means the Chinese want to project power into the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, said Dan Blumenthal, of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.

"I wouldn’t consider it an aggressive move," Blumenthal said.

However, the move has already made other countries in the region nervous, Blumenthal said. That includes India, which has begun upgrading its aircraft carriers in response.


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