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Albo rejects China’s spying claims

Written by on May 9, 2024

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rejected Beijing’s claim that an Australian military helicopter was spying after a Chinese jet detonated flares in front of it in an incident that has reignited tensions between the two countries.

A Chinese fighter jet dropped flares in front of a Seahawk helicopter operating off air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart in the Yellow Sea on Saturday night, while it was enforcing sanctions against North Korea.

China’s Ministry of Defence released a statement claiming Australian defence forces had attempted to conduct “close-in reconnaissance and disturb the normal training activities of the Chinese side.”

But Mr Albanese disputed the claims, telling reporters the military patrols within internationals waters had been “legitimate” and “peaceful.”

“I stand by what we have said when it comes to the incident that occurred in North Asia in recent days,” Mr Albanese said on Thursday.

“Australian Defence Force personnel were engaged in international waters in international skies and engaged in international work consistent with the United Nations sanctions being imposed on North Korea.

“This action by China was unprofessional and unacceptable. We’ve made that very, very clear going forward.”

Describing China’s accusations as “reckless”, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused the Mr Albanese of being too soft over the incident and called on him to immediately contact Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We have to stand up for the men and women of this strike force and the Prime Minister should be on the phone today,” Mr Dutton told 2GB.

“This is completely unacceptable and we won’t tolerate it – you can’t treat our treat our soldiers, sailors and airmen like this.”

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The fallout comes as China’s Premier Li Qiang’s prepares to visit Australia next month.

On Tuesday, Mr Albanese vowed to protest the “unprofessional and unacceptable” with Beijing’s second-most senior leader during discussions.

Saturday’s military altercation came more than six months after Australia accused China of injuring Australian navy divers with sonar pulses in Japanese waters.