Canberra has confirmed reports of a Chinese spy vessel spotted off the Australian coast, with officials decrying the “alarming” action despite noting that Beijing was within its rights to sail in international waters
Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged that a Chinese surveillance ship spent some time near his country’s coast earlier this year, saying on Friday that the vessel underscored a “very serious situation”In the Indo-Pacific Region, while adding that Beijing didn’t run afoul any maritime laws.
“I think the presence of the Chinese Navy – which we were aware of, and they were keeping a close eye on us and we were keeping a close eye on them – the importance of that is to highlight to Australians that there is a very serious situation in the Indo-Pacific,”Morrison stated this to reporters.
They are entitled to live where they choose. We were aware they existed. Under international maritime law, they are allowed to be there. But don’t think for a second that we were not keeping an eye on them as they were seeking to keep an eye on us.
Morrison stated that Beijing should give his country the same freedom when sailing its vessels in the South China Sea disputed waters. These areas are where rival territorial claims have led to tensions long-standing between China and many other countries.
The Daily Telegraph first reported the existence of the Chinese spy vessel. It claimed that it had been circling the coast for three weeks, between August and September.
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Peter Dutton, Defence Minister, confirmed the time frame and told media that Friday’s ship was still in Australian waters. He also said that it had not broken any laws. Later, he added that the deployment had been approved. “alarming,” and said it was at odds with Beijing’s rhetoric about promoting peace and security in the Asia-Pacific.
The high-level comments on the spy vessel come amid rising hostilities between China and Australia, with Canberra now reportedly considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics set to be held in Beijing – though officials are said to be waiting on Washington’s decision before making their own. Discussion of a potential boycott was prompted by criticisms over China’s alleged human rights abuses, namely against its Uyghur Muslim minority. Apart from the Olympics scandal, tensions between Australia, China and other countries have also been sparked by a lengthy trade dispute that has seen China prohibit Australian coal imports.
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