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China evades queries on submarine base

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denies reports about the secretly built major underground nuclear submarine base and says their military build-up is not a threat to any country.

world Updated: May 06, 2008 22:18 IST

China on Wednesday did not confirm or deny reports that it has secretly built a major underground nuclear submarine base but said its military build-up was not a threat to any country.

"We have a vast territorial sea. It is the sacred duty of the Chinese army to safeguard our security on sea, the sovereignty of our territorial sea and maritime rights and interests," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a bi-weekly media briefing.

Qin, who was asked about reports on the submarine base, refrained from a direct reply but insited that "China follows the path of peaceful development and pursues a national defence policy which is defensive in nature. China will always be the backbone of world peace".

The base with a capacity to conceal 20 vessels posed a major threat to Asian countries and American interests in the region, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph said citing satellite imagery.

India has voiced its apprehensions over the build-up of Chinese submarines, with Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta saying it was a "cause for security concern".

"It is not the nuclear submarine bases that matter, we are concerned over the number of nuclear submarines that are being built in our neighbourhood," he said.

When pointed out that the British government had expressed concern and asked if China had communicated anything to London or the Indian government on the base, Qin said, "I am not aware of the communication."

"China follows the path of peaceful development and our national defence policy is defensive in nature. There is no need for the Western countries to be worried or concerned or make any irresponsible accusations," Qin said.

Asked why China was keeping the underground part a secret, Qin said: "I have already answered your question. If you are interested in further details, please refer the question to competent authorities."