Australia Accuses Chinese Guided-Missile Destroyer of Aiming Laser at Its Surveillance Aircraft

© AP Photo / Rob GriffithU.S. Navy P8 Poseidon takes off from Perth Airport
U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon takes off from Perth Airport - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.02.2022
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The incident comes amid strained ties between Australia and China over Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanding an international enquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and an ongoing trade war between the two nations. China, Australia’s largest trading partner, is also unhappy about Canberra’s membership of US-led alliances such as Quad and AUKUS.
The Australian Defence Department has accused a People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) vessel of aiming a laser at a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) maritime surveillance aircraft while sailing through the Arafura Sea.
The Arafura Sea, which Canberra claims as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), lies off Australia’s northern coast, between the Northern Territory and the Indonesian province of Papua.
“Defence can confirm that on 17 February 2022, a P-8A Poseidon detected a laser illuminating the aircraft while in flight over Australia’s northern approaches,” said an official statement.
“Illumination of the aircraft by the Chinese vessel is a serious safety incident,” it added.
Images released by the Australian Defence Department show the Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock entering the Coral Sea on 18 February, a day after the incident. The Australian military has been closely monitoring the movement of both Chinese vessels.
© Photo : Australian Government ImageA Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) reconnaissance photo of a Peoples Liberation Army-Navy Luyang-class guided missile destroyer involved in a lasing incident with an RAAF P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) reconnaissance photo of a Peoples Liberation Army-Navy Luyang-class guided missile destroyer involved in a lasing incident with an RAAF P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.02.2022
A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) reconnaissance photo of a Peoples Liberation Army-Navy Luyang-class guided missile destroyer involved in a lasing incident with an RAAF P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
© Photo : Australian Government imageA PLA-N Luyang-class guided missile destroyer (left) and a PLA-N Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock vessel leave the Torres Strait and enter the Coral Sea on 18 February 2022.
A PLA-N Luyang-class guided missile destroyer (left) and a PLA-N Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock vessel leave the Torres Strait and enter the Coral Sea on 18 February 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.02.2022
A PLA-N Luyang-class guided missile destroyer (left) and a PLA-N Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock vessel leave the Torres Strait and enter the Coral Sea on 18 February 2022.

The statement also claimed that the act could have “endangered” the lives of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) personnel aboard the aircraft.

Lasers can potentially blind the pilot and may also damage equipment on board an aircraft.

“We strongly condemn unprofessional and unsafe military conduct,” the statement read, adding that “such actions” aren’t expected of “professional militaries."

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported that 10 Australian personnel were on board at the time of the incident. It further reported that the lasing incident was captured by HMAS Arunta, a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate with warfare and surveillance capabilities.
The incident comes amid a heated political debate between Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government and the opposition Labor Party on Canberra’s ties with Beijing.
HMAS Adelaide Leaves the Port of Darwin for the last time  - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.02.2022
Australia 'Won't Hesitate' to Take Back Control of Darwin Port from Chinese Company
Morrison said that Beijing would prefer Labor leader Anthony Albanese to be the country’s next PM, as Australia gears up for a federal election in May.
Labor, meanwhile, has accused the Morrison government of serving China’s “interests” after a Chinese company was awarded a 99-year lease of Darwin Port in 2015.
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