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China Likely Damaged Major Underwater Pipeline On Purpose, US Ally Says

The Finnish government suspects China of sabotaging a critical underwater pipeline in the Baltic Sea, Politico reported Friday.

The Balticconnector gas pipeline connects Finland and Estonia over a 48-mile-long stretch under the Baltic Sea; it was ruptured along with two telecommunication cables in October. A Chinese vessel is suspected of causing the pipeline rupture by dragging its anchor across the Baltic Sea floor and colliding with it, and the Finnish government now believes it was likely done purposefully, according to Politico.

“I’m not the sea captain. But I would think that you would notice that you’re dragging an anchor behind you for hundreds of kilometers,” Finland’s Minister of European Affairs Anders Adlercreutz said during an interview in Brussels on Thursday, according to Politico. “I think everything indicates that it was intentional. But of course, so far, nobody has admitted to it.

An investigation between Finland and Estonia is ongoing to determine the exact nature of the pipeline rupture, according to Politico. Both countries have been in contact with Chinese authorities and have asked to send investigators to examine the vessel responsible, which is currently being transported back to a Chinese port.

Adlercreutz wouldn’t say whether he thought Beijing greenlit the sabotage but noted it was strange how swiftly the vessel was hauled back to China, according to Politico.

“If I as a captain would have done something that the Chinese government wouldn’t approve of, then I would be concerned about returning with my boat to China,” he said.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said in October that whoever was commandeering the Chinese vessel almost certainly “understood that there was something wrong” after dragging the anchor across over 100 miles of sea floor, according to Politico.

The Balticconnector rupture underscores existing concerns that have been raised about the stability and security of major underwater infrastructures, which Adlercreutz said generally need “more protection,” according to Politico. The Nord Stream pipeline, which transfers gas between Russia and Germany, was also damaged in a series of explosions in September 2022.

Although no one has been identified as the culprit responsible, recent reports allege that a Ukrainian military official was the “coordinator” of the attack on the Nord Stream, which the official denies. In April, former President Donald Trump appeared to speculate that the U.S. was responsible for the attack.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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