China unveils n-submarine fleet

Beijing, Oct 29 (IANS) China has unveiled its fleet of nuclear-powered submarines which were so far shrouded in mystery, a leading Chinese daily reported Tuesday.

In a flagship news programme, 'Xinwen Lianbo', state-owned China Central Television carried serial coverage for two days starting Sunday on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's Beihai fleet, the Global Times report said.

The "unprecedented" move demonstrates China's "confidence in its sea-based nuclear strike capability and serves as a deterrent to any attempted provocation amid the changing geopolitical situation", the report quoted military observers as saying.

Chinese media, including the People's Daily, the PLA Daily and the China Youth Daily Monday hailed the country's achievements since the launch of the first nuclear-powered submarine in December 1970, the report added.

The People's Daily hailed the submarine fleet as "a shield preserving world peace and stability" and "a cornerstone to safeguard state sovereignty, security and development interests".

"The latest publicity shows the maturity in the submarine force's sea-based nuclear strike capability, and implies progress in the development of China's new generation of submarines," the Global Times quoted Du Wenlong, a military expert, as saying Monday.

The submarines displayed were of old models put into service in the 1980s, the report said.

The navy is replacing them with Jin-class submarines and the Tang-class, which is reportedly in development, it added.

Experts, however, believe that the submarines still lag far behind the US and Russian submarines but are better than the French and British ones.

"Chinese submarines still fall behind US and Russian ones, but have better prospects than French and British ones," the report quoted Li Jie, another military expert, as saying.

Li said the revealing of the force will act as a deterrent to foreign provocation.

Meanwhile, China has decommissioned its first nuclear-powered submarine after more than 40 years of service in the military, Xinhua reported Tuesday citing People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily.

The submarine's nuclear devices have been properly disposed of and scientists have decontaminated the warehouse where nuclear items were stored during the past 40 years.

The submarine will be used as an exhibit after it is released from military service, according to the newspaper.

China's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Long March 1, was launched in 1970. It was commissioned to the PLA navy in 1974.

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