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Defence responds to China’s claim about laser incident


China says Australian plane dropped sonar buoy in water near Chinese ship

China’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 “approached the airspace over the PLA naval fleet with the nearest distance of only 4 kilometres”. He said that was “very close”.

He also said the Australian aircraft had cast a sonar buoy into the water around the Chinese vessel. Such a device – also known as a sonobuoy – 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 ministry’s website, its spokesperson, Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, accuses the ADF of “spiteful and provocative actions” that would “undoubtedly result in misunderstanding and threaten the safety of aircraft, vessel and personnel of both sides”.

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 – it just says the PLA naval vessel “maintained safe, normative and professional operations” and accused the Australian side of spreading “false information” and making an “irresponsible claim”.

It ends with China calling on Australia to “stop such provocative and risky actions” and “avoid negative effects on the relationship of the two countries and two militaries”.

The Australian defence department has been contacted for a response. We’ll let you know here on the blog as soon as we have it.


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