China says Australian plane dropped sonar buoy in water near Chinese ship
Chinaâ€™s national defence ministry has given its first detailed response to the claims its warship pointed a laser at an Australian surveillance aircraft north of Australia with two claims of its own.
A spokesperson for the ministry said that in the incident on 17 February, the Australian P-8A surveillance aircraft â€œapproached the airspace over the PLA naval fleet with the nearest distance of only 4 kilometresâ€. He said that was â€œvery closeâ€.
He also said the Australian aircraft had cast a sonar buoy into the water around the Chinese vessel. Such a device â€“ also known as a sonobuoy â€“ can be used to gather acoustic information and help detect submarines. An image released by the Chinese national defence ministry shows a triangular orange buoy in the water.
In a statement posted on the ministryâ€™s website, its spokesperson, Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, accuses the ADF of â€œspiteful and provocative actionsâ€ that would â€œundoubtedly result in misunderstanding and threaten the safety of aircraft, vessel and personnel of both sidesâ€.
China is firmly opposed to these actions by the Australia.
The Australian government had said a PLA-N warship had used a laser to illuminate an Australian P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft on Thursday and that this activity was dangerous and was not professional. The Australian aircraft had been tracking two PLA-N vessels that were sailing east through the Arafura Sea, north of Australia.
The Chinese national defence ministry statement does not address the claim of a use of a laser in any detail â€“ it just says the PLA naval vessel â€œmaintained safe, normative and professional operationsâ€ and accused the Australian side of spreading â€œfalse informationâ€ and making an â€œirresponsible claimâ€.
It ends with China calling on Australia to â€œstop such provocative and risky actionsâ€ and â€œavoid negative effects on the relationship of the two countries and two militariesâ€.
The Australian defence department has been contacted for a response. Weâ€™ll let you know here on the blog as soon as we have it.