Canberra Calls on Beijing to Conduct 'Full Investigation' Into PLA Navy Vessel Laser Incident
05:47 GMT 21.02.2022 (Updated: 18:35 GMT 19.10.2022)
© 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.
© Photo : Australian Government Image
Canberra says that its P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft was targeted by a laser from a Chinese navy vessel in the Arafura Sea on 17 February. Australia has also released images of the PLA-N’s Luyang-class guided missile destroyer and Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock vessel doing rounds of Australian waters last week to back its claims.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday asked Beijing to carry out a "full investigation" into the targeting of an Australian surveillance plane by a People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-Navy) vessel last week.
The incident took place in the Arafura Sea last week and was reported by Canberra on Saturday (19 February). The Arafura Sea is located off Australia’s northern coast, between its Northern Territory and the Indonesian province of Papua.
"We haven't received an explanation as yet, but what we've called for, working through the diplomatic and defence channels, is a full investigation into this event and for them (China) to provide answers to how this dangerous act could be undertaken," Morrison said in an interview with Sydney-based 2GB radio station.
The Australian prime minister went on to describe the incident as an “act of intimidation and bullying”, as he underlined that it had taken place in the region claimed by Canberra as its ‘Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)’.
19 February 2022, 11:19 GMT
Scott Morrison said that the incident could have endangered the lives of Australian defence personnel who were aboard the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon aircraft at the time.
“…We know that if you go and point lasers in the pilot’s eyes… It is a direct threat to them and their safety. It is a dangerous and reckless act,” remarked Morrison.
At a press conference on Sunday, a day after information about the incident was revealed by Australian authorities, Morrison alleged that it wasn’t the first time that Canberra had detected the presence of Chinese navy vessels off the nation’s coast.
“And I can assure you, we keep a close watch on them. I'm very concerned about the actions…” he said.
Morrison also used the incident to justify Canberra’s need to be part of groupings such as AUKUS and ‘Quad’.
“That is why, among so many other reasons, we bounded together to form important relationships like the AUKUS arrangement. And why we work with our Quad partners and others in the region to ensure that not only Australia doesn't have to put up with threats and intimidation and coercion, but all countries who live in the Indo-Pacific region can look forward to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he remarked.
The governments of Australia, the US and the United Kingdom announced the AUKUS pact in September last year. Under AUKUS, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) would get technology to develop advanced nuclear attack submarines (SSNs). The pact has been criticised by Beijing, which has accused the Washington of inciting an “arms race” in the region.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, is a diplomatic and semi-security grouping comprising Australia, Japan, India and the US, perceived by Beijing as being directed at it to contain its rising economic and military clout in the region.
The security incident has surfaced ahead of a federal election this year.
Canberra’s ties with Beijing, its largest trading partner, have come under sharp public focus, with Morrison this month alleging in Parliament that China prefers Leader of Opposition Anthony Albanese as the country’s next Prime Minister.
The opposition Labor Party has accused the Morrison government of serving China’s economic “interests” and has questioned the awarding of a 99-year lease of the Darwin port to a Chinese company.