Home Australia Aussie Helicopter Threatened Chinese Airspace, Says Beijing, Use Of Flares A Warning

Aussie Helicopter Threatened Chinese Airspace, Says Beijing, Use Of Flares A Warning

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gives an address to the Leaders’ Plenary during the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in Melbourne, Australia, March 6, 2024. JOEL CARRETT/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declared on Tuesday that it is unacceptable for Australian defence personnel to be endangered in international airspace by the Chinese military while conducting operations to enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Australia revealed on Monday that a Chinese fighter jet had jeopardised the safety of an Australian military helicopter in an unsafe and unacceptable confrontation over the Yellow Sea.

In response, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian stated on Tuesday, “The Australian military aircraft flew threateningly close to Chinese airspace. The Chinese military took necessary measures to issue a warning to the Australian side.”

The Chinese air force J-10 jet dropped flares above and several hundred metres ahead of an Australian MH60R Seahawk helicopter on a routine flight on Saturday in the Yellow Sea as part of an operation to enforce sanctions against North Korea, Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Monday evening.

In a television interview, Albanese said China had not yet responded publicly to Australia’s representations over the incident.

“This issue, we have made public in order to be able to speak out very clearly and unequivocally that this behaviour is unacceptable,” he told Nine’s Today Show.

The Australian Defence Force personnel were “in international waters, international airspace, and they’re doing work to ensure that the sanctions that the world has imposed through the United Nations on North Korea, due to their intransient and reckless behaviour, are enforced”.

“They shouldn’t have been at any risk,” he said.

The Australian public expected an explanation from China about the incident, and Australia had made “very strong representations at every level to China”, he added.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is expected to visit Australia next month, he said.

“We will make our position clear as well in discussions,” he said.

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The helicopter, flying from destroyer HMAS Hobart, dodged the flares. The confrontation put the aircraft and those on board at risk, although no one was hurt, the Department of Defence said in a separate statement.

This is the second such incident in six months to mar what has otherwise been a growing rapprochement between the two countries after years of strained relations and trade disputes.

Australia said in November a Chinese naval vessel injured some of its divers in Japanese waters using an underwater sonar. China denied it had used its sonar, however Australia rejected the explanation.

In 2022, Australia protested after a Chinese navy vessel pointed a laser at an Australian military aircraft close to Australia’s northern coast.

In a separate incident in 2022, Australia said a Chinese fighter aircraft dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea, releasing a “bundle of chaff” containing pieces of aluminium that were ingested into the Australian aircraft’s engine.

Liu Jianchao, head of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party, said during a visit to Australia in November the Australian navy’s movements in the South China Sea and East China Sea appeared to be an effort to contain China.

Australia has rejected this, saying it respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law.

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. An international tribunal in 2016 said China’s expansive claim had no legal basis.

Chinese navy vessels have been tracked off Australia’s coast several times in recent years, including monitoring exercises with the U.S. military.

With Inputs From Reuters