China has sent a submarine to the Gulf of Aden to help in counter piracy operations — a first for the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) submarine fleet, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. In a press briefing last week, ministry spokesman Col. Geng Yansheng confirmed a PLAN submarine was headed off the coast of Somalia to join a Chinese task force effort to piracy in the region.
News of the submarine emerged earlier this month when what appeared to be a Song-class diesel attack submarine (SSK) took on fuel and provisions in Sri Lanka from Sept. 7 to 14, raising questions if China was expanding submarine operations into the Indian Ocean.
“What needs to be pointed out is that it is a common practice for navies of all countries to have their submarines and ships replenished at certain intervals at ports,” Geng said.
A later statement from the ministry indicated the submarine was not part of a larger Chinese push into the Indian Ocean.
Still, the submarine’s presence has caused concern for India and other countries in the region wary of China expanding operations beyond the Western Pacific and the South China Sea.
China has spent considerable funds on infrastructure in ports like Sri Lanka’s Colombo and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean for years raising concerns of the Indian government.
“Chinese warships are deployed in the Indian Ocean Region and we are continuously monitoring them and see what is their deployment,” chief of the Indian Navy Adm. Robin Dhowan told reporters on Sept. 25.
“Along with it, our aircraft, submarines and warships are always deployed to face any challenge.”