China has issued an official response to accusations of an unacceptable military action off the coast of Australia, categorically dismissing the Scott Morrison government’s assertions. Moreover, the Chinese Ministry of National Defence has accused Australia’s military forces of “spiteful” and “provocative” activities.
After a Chinese vessel fired a laser at an Australian military aircraft in waters off the Northern Territory, Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an explanation. He called the behaviour “dangerous” and “reckless” on Monday. In a strong response, Beijing, as expected, denied any wrongdoing. Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters that Canberra’s characterisation of the incident was “untrue.”
“The normal navigation of Chinese vessels on the high seas is in line with relevant international law and international practice and completely legal and legitimate. We urge Australia to respect the lawful rights that China’s vessels are entitled to in relevant waters under international law and stop maliciously disseminating China-related disinformation,” Wenbin stated.
The Chinese Defence Ministry accused the P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft of “provocative” behaviour by flying only four kilometres from the Chinese naval fleet and casting sonar buoys around one of their vessels. The defence ministry also released two photos of the plane and a sonar buoy in the water.
“Such spiteful and provocative actions by the F will undoubtedly result in misunderstanding, and threaten the safety of aircraft, vessel and personnel of both sides,” the Ministry of Defence said in an official statement.
It provided two photos of the plane and a sonar buoy in the ocean. China is adamantly opposed to Australia’s conduct, stated Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Tan Kefei in the statement. On the other hand, Morrison was questioned on Tuesday about allegations that the plane came too close to the ship, but he denied the claim.
‘No Apology for where our surveillance aircraft are looking after and protecting Australia’
“Our surveillance aircraft was exactly where it was allowed to be doing everything they were allowed to do and keeping eyes on those who are coming into our exclusive economic zone. They were doing their job as they do every single day and we make no apology for where our surveillance aircraft are looking after and protecting Australia,” Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Tuesday.
The pointing of the laser towards the plane, according to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton, threatened the lives of people on board and could have blinded them. In recent months, Dutton has chastised Beijing for “hyping” the likelihood of armed war in the region. Labor has requested a briefing from the government on the incident, which has emerged as the latest irritant in Australia’s increasingly strained relationship with China. Morrison has brought up the incident as he ramps up his pre-election national security rhetoric.
(With inputs from agencies)
Image: AP/China’s MOD/Facebook