Australia calls for ‘full investigation’ into Chinese naval laser incident, Beijing defends its actions

SYDNEY, Feb 21 (Reuters) – Australia’s prime minister said on Monday that a Chinese navy ship that pointed a laser at an Australian military plane was so close to the Australian coast it could have been seen from shore , and demanded a full Chinese investigation.

Scott Morrison told the media that his government had not received an explanation from China for the incident last Thursday, which Australia considered “dangerous and reckless”.

China said the Australian version of events “did not match the facts” and that Australia had dropped a Sono buoy, which can help detect submarines, near Chinese ships. Australia’s Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The Chinese navy vessel aimed a military-grade laser at an Australian military aircraft over Australia’s northern approaches, illuminating the aircraft and potentially endangering lives, Australia said on Saturday. read more Such a laser is normally aimed to designate a target before a weapon is discharged.

The P-8A Poseidon – a maritime patrol aircraft – detected a laser emanating from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) ship, the Defense Ministry said, releasing photographs of the two ships Chinese sailing near the northern coast of Australia.

A Chinese missile destroyer and an amphibious transport dock were sailing east through the Arafura Sea between New Guinea and Australia at the time of the incident, then crossed the narrow Torres Strait.

“It’s possible people could even see the ship from our mainland, potentially,” Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Monday.

Australia had called through diplomatic and defense channels for “a full investigation into this event”, he said.

He likened the incident to a hypothetical situation of an Australian frigate pointing a laser at a Chinese surveillance plane in the Taiwan Strait, adding: “Can you imagine their reaction to that in Beijing?”

China’s Ministry of Defense has defended its ships’ actions, saying its ships abide by international law and blaming Australia.

“Australian P-8 anti-submarine patrol aircraft came into the airspace around our formation of ships, and the closest was only 4 kilometers from our ship,” the doorman said. – Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei in a post on the ministry’s official Weibo page. Monday.

“From the photos taken by our ships, it can be seen that the Australian aircraft is very close to our ship and is also dropping sonobuoys around our ship. Such malicious provocative behavior is very easy to lead to misunderstandings and to errors in judgement, posing a threat to the safety of vessels and personnel on both sides,” Tan added.

Attached to the Weibo post were two stamped photos from the Chinese Defense Ministry, which could not be verified.

“We demand that the Australian side immediately stop similar provocative and dangerous actions and stop making groundless accusations and slander against the Chinese side, so as not to affect the overall situation of relations between the two countries and the two armies,” Tan said.

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Reporting by Kirsty Needham, Emily Chow, Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel and Bernadette Baum

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