North Sea Fleet commanders punished in an unprecedented PLA crackdown The top two officers of China's North Sea Fleet have been sacked and eight others demoted or dismissed as the navy cleans house in the largest single disciplinary action against senior commanders in the history of the People's Liberation Army. The removal of the commander and political commissar of the North Sea Fleet comes the day after it emerged that the commander of the navy and the navy's political commissar had also been replaced. The extraordinary purge of senior officers comes in the wake of the loss of the Ming Class submarine, No 361, six weeks ago and the death of all 70 onboard. Xinhua reported that North Fleet commander Vice-Admiral Ding Yiping and North Fleet commissar Vice-Admiral Chen Xianfeng were removed for 'improper command and action' in relation to the accident. In a brief statement on Thursday, Xinhua said navy commander Admiral Shi Yunsheng and navy commissar Admiral Yang Huaiqing had been respectively replaced by Vice-Admiral Zhang Dingfa, and Vice-Admiral Hu Yanlin. Citing official sources, Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po said the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Central Military Commission were extremely 'discontented' with the accident, and the dismissals came after a massive investigation lead by Central Military Commission vice-chairman General Guo Boxiong and a 30-plus member team. It also said investigations were continuing at North Sea Fleet headquarters - home base of the ill-fated submarine - and that officers found culpable could possibly be tried in military court. In a separate report, Wen Wei Po quoted Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Lu Jianhua as saying the sackings showed that the Central Committee of the Communist Party sought to 'wake up' the PLA as the military modernises. Andrew Yang, a mainland military specialist at Taiwan's Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, said the sackings indicated the leadership's determination to demand accountability from the armed forces. 'The Chinese leaders want the military to be responsible for its mistakes as well as its contributions,' said Mr Yang. The fired North Sea fleet admirals were experienced military officers. Vice-Admiral Ding was appointed fleet commander in 2000 and Vice-Admiral Chen was appointed commissar in early 1999. No details were released as to the identity of the other officers who were disciplined. State media reported that current navy headquarters department deputy chief of staff Rear-Admiral Zhang Zhannan was the new North Fleet commander and South Fleet commissar Rear-Admiral Wu Huayang the new North Fleet commissar. Rear-Admiral Zhang had been deputy chief of staff since 2000 and Rear-Admiral Wu had been South Fleet commissar since 2001. Despite the sackings, the cause of the submarine accident remains a mystery. Although many theories have been put forward, there has been no official explanation. Even the date when the submarine was lost has not been confirmed. Media reports yesterday cited official sources saying that the accident happened sometime between April 20 and 26. The government announced the incident early last month. Although there has been speculation of a recent power struggle between Central Military Commission Chairman Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao, the commission's vice-chairman, analysts said the sackings did not appear to be part of any conflict that may exist between the two men. 'There is no hard evidence that the dismissals are part of a struggle between Jiang and Hu,' Mr Yang said. 'Nothing seems unusual about the people promoted.'