Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dubbed China’s laser attack on an Australian surveillance aircraft as “reckless” and an “act of intimidation”, as he calls for an explanation from Beijing.
It comes after Defence confirmed reports of a laser attack on a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon while in flight over Australia’s northern approaches on Thursday, 17 February.
According to intelligence gathered by RAAF personnel, the laser emanated from a Chinese People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) Luyang-class guided missile destroyer travelling through the Arafura Sea alongside a PLA-N Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock vessel.
Defence condemned the “unprofessional and unsafe military conduct”, warning it could have endangered the lives of the P-8A Poseidon crew.
“Such actions are not in keeping with the standards we expect of professional militaries,” Defence noted in a statement.
Commenting on the incident, Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted the detection of Chinese naval vessels along Australia’s northern border is “no great surprise”.
“We’ve had those vessels, we’ve had vessels off our coast, off the Queensland coast, keeping a close watch on Australia,” he said.
“And I can assure you, we keep a close watch on them.”
However, the Prime Minister described the “unprovoked” and “unwarranted” laser attack as an “act of intimidation”.
“[I] thought it was a reckless and irresponsible act [and] it should not occur,” he added.
Prime Minister Morrison said the government is raising the issue directly through “diplomatic and defence channels”, stressing Australia would continue to stand up to “coercion” and “bullying”.
“We’ll be making our views very, very clear to the Chinese government about the dangerous acts that took place in the Arafura Sea, and this only strengthens my resolve to ensure we keep going down the path of boosting Australia’s resilience, taking this issue as seriously as you possibly can take it, as we have always done,” he said.
“… I won’t be intimidated by it [and] the appeasement path is not something my government will ever go down.”
The Prime Minister called on Beijing to explain its actions.
“It’s not just important for Australia, but I think all around the region this explanation should be provided as to why a military vessel, a naval vessel, in Australia’s exclusive economic zone, would undertake such an act, such a dangerous act in relation to Australian surveillance aircraft,” he said.
“[That] act of intimidation is not just a message that I suppose they’re trying to send to Australia – a message that we will respond to – but it is a sign of the sort of threats and intimidation that can occur to any country in our region.
“And that’s why we need to band together.”
According to Defence, the PLA-N vessels have since transited through the Torres Strait and were recently detected in the Coral Sea.
This is the latest military face-off between the ADF and the PLA.
Last June, two People’s Liberation Army Navy General Intelligence ships – Tianguanxing and Haiwangxing – approached the Queensland coast during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21.
At the time, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said it was a reminder of the changing dynamic in the Indo-Pacific, and the ramp up in China’s military presence.
“The Chinese have invested in all of their assets. They have a production line of submarines and frigates that we’ve not seen since wartime and we need to be very conscious of that,” he added.
“There’s been a militarisation of bases across the Pacific and elsewhere around the world, and Australia needs to make sure we do whatever we can to maintain peace in our region.”
This comes amid China’s continued incursions on Taiwan’s territorial integrity, with no end in sight to breaches of the air defence authorisation zone (ADIZ) by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported breaches of the ADIZ almost every day in January and at least three times this month, flagging intrusions by offensive platforms, including Shenyang J-16 strike fighters and Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft.
These reports have only heightened fears of a looming clash, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) openly touting its plans to absorb the independent democracy.
Article courtesy of Defence Connect.