Australia Claims China’s Warship Sails Close to 'Secret' Naval Base Helping US Submarines in Pacific
Australia and its allies, including the US, fear that China’s rise in the Pacific will have “great consequences”. China secured a first-ever security pact in the Pacific with the Solomon Islands last month, causing significant uneasiness among Western countries.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton has accused China of sending a People’s Liberation Army - Navy warship with intelligence capabilities near the Western Australian coast, hugging the western coastline for the past week.
Dutton called it an “aggressive act” given the extraordinary movement of coming so far south and close, and has deployed a combination of air and maritime capabilities in response.
“It’s a Chinese warship with intelligence gathering capabilities ... it’s very unusual; we haven’t seen a ship from the People’s Liberation Army come this far south,” Dutton said in a press conference on Friday.
Imagery released by Royal Australian Navy shows a PLA ship identified as a Dongdiao Class Auxiliary Intelligence ship called the Haiwangxing was 250 nautical miles off the coast of Broome on Friday and tracking towards Darwin.
The Navy further stated that the ship travelled south of Exmouth, north of Western Australia, and entered Australia’s exclusive economic zone.
“Its intention, of course, is to collect intelligence right along the coastline; it has been in close proximity to military and intelligence installations on the west coast of Australia,” Dutton added.
In a separate statement, the Department of Defence emphasised that Australia respects the rights of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, and expects a similar response from others.
Australia has taken an aggressive stance against China since Beijing sealed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, accusing the latter of attempting to build a military base in the region.
China has pertinently rejected the concerns raised by Australia--the primary security provider of the Solomon Islands.
On Thursday, China’s envoy to Australia, Xiao Qian, reassured his host nation about the pact amid reports of a planned trip by a high-level Chinese delegation led by foreign minister Wang Yi to the Solomons following the completion of a bilateral security pact.