China says Australian laser claims are ‘false and malicious’

China has denied Australian claims warship shined laser at surveillance plane last Thursdayaccusing Canberra of spreading false information.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said the information released by the Australian side was “false”.

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The Australian Department of Defense said on Saturday that a The P-8A Poseidon had been targeted by a laser from a People’s Liberation Army ship in flight over the northern approaches to Australia.

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But Wang said the Chinese ships are complying with international law on the high seas.

“We urge the Australian side to respect the legitimate rights of Chinese vessels in relevant waters in accordance with international law, and to stop maliciously spreading false information about China,” Wang said.

Australia called it a “serious security incident” adding that “acts like this can potentially put lives at risk”.

Canberra released multiple images of the two PLA vessels – a Luyang-class guided missile destroyer and a Yuzhao-class amphibious transport ship – which it said were sailing in the Arafura Sea at the time of the incident. Both ships have since passed through the Torres Strait and are now in the Coral Sea.

Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defence, said the Australian statement was completely inconsistent with the facts.

Tan said the Australian anti-submarine patrol aircraft arrived in the airspace surrounding the formation of Chinese warships and came within 4 km of a vessel.

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He also accused the Australian side of deliberately spreading false information, saying, “We demand that the Australian side immediately cease these provocative and dangerous actions, and stop bringing baseless accusations and slander against China.”

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said the incident happened in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone and said the use of lasers “may result in blindness to crew, it may obviously lead to damage to the equipment”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “reckless and irresponsible act of intimidation”, adding that Australia was raising the incident directly through diplomatic and defense channels.

But Chinese researchers expressed skepticism about Australia’s claims and said more details of the incident should be released.

Hu Bo, director of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank, said: “The scenario could be that the P-8A was getting very close to the Chinese warship, but I’m not sure. sure China shone lasers against her.

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“If the two sides were very close and the confrontation was intense, then Australia could see a lot of things as lasers.”

However, Hu suggested that China might use lasers under certain circumstances.

“If the aircraft flew very close to the Chinese warships, the Chinese side may have used a laser for range finding – because the close distance may affect our safety, and we did this for defense,” said said Hu, but added that this scenario was very unlikely.

Hu said Australia needed to provide more evidence and added that lasers would not pose a threat to people or equipment if used for range finding.

Fu Qianshao, a former member of the PLA Air Force, said it was still unclear whether the Chinese ships were in the area in question, adding “so far we we only have the word Australia”.

Fu said lasers are used to track the range of a potential target, and sometimes for jamming, but will not cause damage to the target unless a weapon is subsequently fired, a capability that is missing. to Chinese warships.

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But John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University, wrote in an article for The conversationwhich was later reissued by The Guardianthat lasers are widely used to determine the range of fire and designate a target.

Pointing a laser is often referred to as “painting a target” before firing live ammunition, he wrote, which is widely considered a hostile act, just before crossing the threshold into open conflict or war.

He also added that the laser beams themselves are dangerous as they can cause permanent blindness if projected into someone’s eyes, as well as damage important navigation and aviation safety systems.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice on China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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