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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s defense minister said Friday that a Chinese warship with spy capabilities cruised the country’s west coast in what amounted to an “aggressive act.”
Minister Peter Dutton said the ship was seen heading north on Friday morning about 250 nautical miles from Broome in Western Australia, and had been tracked along the coast for the past week.
“His intention, of course, is to gather intelligence along the coast,” Dutton said. “It has been in close proximity to military and intelligence installations on the west coast of Australia.”
He said it was unprecedented for a Chinese warship to venture so far south and authorities were watching the vessel closely with surveillance aircraft and techniques. He said he wanted to be open and honest with Australians about the situation.
“I think it’s an aggressive act, and I think especially because he’s come so far south,” Dutton said.
Asked about the sighting of the ship, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he had no information on the specific situation, but “China always abides by international law and practice. international”.
“The concerned Australian politician should view the relevant situation objectively and calmly, and not make sensational remarks,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
Tensions between China and Australia have escalated recently after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.
Australians will head to the polls in eight days to vote in a general election. Dutton said the timing of his announcement had nothing to do with the election campaign.
The Australian Defense Force identified the vessel as a Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence vessel named Haiwangxing.
“Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same,” they said. the Defense Forces said in a statement. “Defence will continue to monitor the operation of the vessel in our maritime approaches.”
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