Canberra has confirmed reports of a Chinese spy ship spotted off the coast of Australia, in which officials condemned the “alarming” act despite noting that Beijing was within its right to sail in international waters
Prime Minister Scott Morrison recognized that a Chinese surveillance vessel spent some time near the coast of its country earlier this year and said on Friday that the vessel underlined a “very serious situation” in the Indo-Pacific region, although they added that Beijing did not encounter any maritime laws in the process.
“I think the presence of the Chinese Navy – which we were aware of, and they kept an eye on us and we kept an eye on them – is important in signaling to the Australians that there is a very serious situation in the Indo-Pacific. , Morrison told reporters.
They have every right to be where they are. We knew they were there. They can be there according to international maritime law. But do not think for a second that we did not keep an eye on them because they were trying to keep an eye on us.
Morrison also said he expects Beijing to give its country the same leeway when sailing its own ships in disputed areas in the South China Sea, where competing territorial claims have given rise to long-standing tensions between China and a number of other regional states.
The Daily Telegraph was the first to report the presence of the Chinese spy ship, which it claimed had circled the coast for a period of three weeks between August and September.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton confirmed this time frame and told the media on Friday that the ship was outside Australian waters and did not break any laws. He later added, however, that the deployment was “alarming,” and said it was contrary to Beijing’s rhetoric about promoting peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
High-level comments about the spy ship come amid growing hostilities between China and Australia, where Canberra is reportedly considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing – although officials are said to be waiting for Washington’s decision before making their own. The discussion about a potential boycott was prompted by criticism of China’s alleged human rights violations, namely against its Uighur Muslim minority. In addition to the Olympic controversy, other tensions between Australia and China have been driven by one long-standing trade dispute, which has seen China ban Australian coal imports.
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