Federal government says it won’t be deterred by Chinese ‘harassment’ tactics in South China Sea

The federal government says it will not be intimidated by the dangerous actions of a Chinese plane last month towards an Australian surveillance plane in the South China Sea.

The Defense Ministry revealed that a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft flew close to an RAAF P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft on May 26 during a routine patrol in international airspace.

Defense says the Chinese plane fired flares as it flew close to the Australian plane, before slashing in front of the P-8 and releasing a bag of “chaff” into its flight path, including aluminum fragments that were sucked into the Australian plane’s engine.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says his government has expressed concern about the incident with the Chinese government.

“We are concerned about this incident. We have raised that concern through the appropriate channels,” he said.

Defense Secretary Richard Marles says Australia will continue its legal operations in the South China Sea.

“This incident will not prevent Australia from continuing these activities, which fall within our rights under international law, to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which is fundamental in the interests of our nation.” said Mr Marles.

Richard Marles addresses the media
Defense Secretary Richard Marles says Australia will not be deterred by China’s intimidation. ABC News: Keane Bourke

“Of course we don’t want increasing militarization in the South China Sea.

“This is a body of water deeply connected to Australia,” he said, citing the sea as an important trade route.

Australia has been conducting maritime surveillance activities in the region under Operation Gateway for decades.

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New Philippine government opposes Chinese expansion in South China Sea.

Second ‘harassment’ this year

This is the second time Chinese forces have faced a dangerous confrontation with Australian troops this year after a Chinese naval ship shone a laser at an RAAF plane in February.

On February 17, RAAF P-8A Poseidon discovered a military-grade laser illuminating the aircraft in flight just north of Australia.

Up to 10 personnel were on board the aircraft when the incident occurred.

The Defense Ministry says the Chinese ship, accompanied by another People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) ship, was sailing east through the Arafura Sea at the time.

At the time, then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the incident as an “act of intimidation” endangering the life of Defense.

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