Albanese rejects China's argument that Australia was at fault for dangerous aircraft encounter

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says China’s account blaming Australia for a dangerous clash between their military aircraft in international airspace over the Yellow Sea failed to undermine Australian objections

Rod McGuirk
Wednesday 08 May 2024 05:15 BST

China's account blaming Australia for a dangerous clash between their military aircraft in international airspace over the Yellow Sea failed to undermine Australian objections, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday.

The Chinese and Australians lodged official protests and blamed each other for a Chinese warplane’s extraordinary use of flares against an Australian navy helicopter Saturday.

The Seahawk’s pilot had to “take evasive action” to avoid flares that were dropped in the helicopter’s flightpath by a Chinese Chengdu J-10 fighter jet, Australian officials said.

There was no injury or damage done, although experts warned the helicopter could have been forced to ditch at sea if an engine had been struck by a flare.

Australia publicly accused China of unprofessional and unacceptable behavior, while China retorted that the Seahawk deliberately flew close to China’s airspace in a “provocative move.”

Albanese said he rejected China’s argument that the Australians had been at fault.

He highlighted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian’s statement that the helicopter “flew within close range of China’s airspace” in attacking the Chinese case.

“That’s a confirmation that this chopper was in international air space,” Albanese told Perth Radio 6PR.

Albanese also noted the helicopter had been upholding international law at the time as part of the crew an Australian air warfare destroyer that was enforcing U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

“This was unprofessional and unacceptable. And the Chinese spokesperson’s comments do nothing to undermine or to question what is the Australian Defense Force’s assessment of the P.L.A.’s unsafe behavior,” Albanese said, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

It was the most serious encounter between the two nations’ forces since Australia accused the Chinese destroyer CNS Ningbo of injuring Australian navy divers with sonar pulses in Japanese waters in November.

Albanese said the weekend encounter would be raised with Chinese Premier Li Qiang when he visits Australia next month.

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