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China accuses Australia of provocation over Seahawk incident

written by Robert Dougherty | May 8, 2024

A Chinese J-10 fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade with the air force under the PLA Southern Theater Command rises during a round-the-clock flight training exercise. (Image: PLA/Shang Jieyan)

China has publicly lashed the actions of the Australian Defence Force, alleging Australian military aircraft deliberately flew into their airspace during a recent altercation.

The spat follows details released by Defence that a Chinese J-10 fighter jet dropped flares just 300 metres in front of a RAN Seahawk on Saturday, forcing the crew to rapidly take evasive action.

The RAN MH-60R was launched from HMAS Hobart as part of Operation Argos, Australia’s contribution to the effort to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea. No injuries were sustained by ADF personnel or damage was caused to the MH-60R.

People’s Republic of China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lin Jian fired back during a regular press conference on 7 May, alleging deliberate and provocative actions were taken by the ADF.

“What truly happened was, an Australian military aircraft deliberately flew within close range of China’s airspace in a provocative move that endangered China’s maritime and air security in the name of enforcing UN Security Council’s resolutions,” he said.


“The Chinese military took necessary measures at the scene to warn and alert the Australian side. The way the situation was handled was consistent with our laws and regulations, professional and safe.

“China has lodged serious protests to the Australian side on its risky moves. We urge Australia to immediately stop the provocations and hypes to prevent misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

In addition, PRC Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Senior Colonel Zhang Xiaogang has reportedly rebutted claims made by the Australian government regarding the incident and stated the PLA Navy was correctly conducting training at the time.

“We urge the Australian side to truly respect China’s sovereignty and security concerns, cease spreading false narratives, strictly constrain the operations of its naval and air forces, stop all dangerous provocations, and avoid undermining the overall relationship between the two countries and the two militaries,” he said.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles, speaking to 9News about the incident, which took place over international waters in the Yellow Sea, said it was so serious, it could have put the crew’s lives “in danger”.

“When you look at the speed at which fighter planes move, at which helicopters move, the reaction time here is measured in a couple of seconds,” said Minister Marles.

“And the consequences of the flare actually making contact with the helicopter could have been deeply significant, would have put lives in danger.

“Our concern is always for the welfare of the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform … serving as Defence Force personnel, and the interactions that were occurring by the PLA Air Force were unacceptable.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese later said he had made “appropriate diplomatic representations” to Beijing over the incident.

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