Australia seeks ‘full investigation’ into China’s naval laser incident

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said a Chinese naval vessel that fired a laser at an Australian military plane was so close to the coast that it could have been seen from the shore, and he called for a complete investigation by the Chinese government.

Scott Morrison told the media that China had not provided an explanation for the event last Thursday, which Australia described as “dangerous and reckless.”

China claimed that Australia’s version of events “did not square with reality” and that Australia had deployed a Sonobuoy near Chinese ships to help detect submarines. A request for comment from Australia’s defence minister was not immediately returned.

Over Australia’s northern approaches, a Chinese navy vessel fired a military-grade laser at an Australian military plane, lighting the plane and potentially endangering lives, Australia claimed on Saturday. A laser like this is usually used to identify a target before a weapon is fired.

The P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft detected a laser coming from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) vessel, according to the Defence Department, which also released photos of two Chinese boats travelling near Australia’s north coast.

At the time of the event, a Chinese guided missile destroyer and an amphibious transport dock were travelling east through the Arafura Sea between New Guinea and Australia, passing via the tight Torres Strait.

“It’s possible that folks on our mainland will be able to view the warship,” Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Monday.

He said Australia has requested “a complete examination into this situation” through diplomatic and defence channels.

“Could you imagine their reaction in Beijing if an Australian frigate pointed a laser at Chinese surveillance aircraft in the Taiwan Strait?” he asked, comparing the incident to a hypothetical situation in which an Australian frigate pointed a laser at Chinese surveillance aircraft in the Taiwan Strait.

China’s defence ministry defended its ships’ actions, claiming that they followed international law and blaming Australia for the incident.

“The Australian P-8 anti-submarine patrol aircraft arrived in the airspace around our ship formation, and the closest was barely 4 kilometres away from our ship,” defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said on Monday in a post on the ministry’s official Weibo page.

“The Australian plane is spotted flying very near to our ship and dropping Sonobuoys all around it, according to images collected by our ships. Such blatantly confrontational behaviour is prone to misunderstanding and misinterpretation, endangering the safety of ships and crew on both sides “Tan continued.

The Weibo tweet included two Chinese defence ministry branded pictures that could not be authenticated.

“We urge that the Australian side immediately ceases such provocative and harmful activities, as well as making baseless accusations and smears against the Chinese side, in order to avoid affecting the overall status of relations between the two countries and militaries,” Tan added.

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