‘Stop provoking’: China warns Australia over ‘unsafe’ aerial encounter

NEW DELHI:The Chinese government, on Tuesday, fired back at Australia over an “unsafe” confrontation over the Yellow Sea and urged the counterpart to immediately stop the provocations.
A spokesperson from the Chinese foreign ministry has alleged that an Australian aircraft purposefully approached China’s airspace in a manner deemed provocative, posing a risk to maritime air security.
“The Australian military aircraft flew near China’s airspace in a threatening way,” the spokesperson, Lin Jian, told a regular news briefing.
This incident has the potential to escalate tensions between China and Australia, which had reached a nadir in 2020 when Canberra called for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, prompting Beijing to impose trade barriers in response.
Previously, Australia had accused Chinese fighter jets of deploying flares near a naval helicopter’s path in the Yellow Sea’s international waters. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned this action as “completely unacceptable.”
The Australian MH-60R Seahawk helicopter was on patrol enforcing United Nations sanctions on North Korea at the time of the incident, the Defense Ministry in Canberra said, adding the move put the lives of the helicopter crew in danger.
“This was an unsafe maneuver which posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel,” the statement from Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said.
No one was hurt in the incident, which happened during an operation to enforce sanctions against North Korea.
The Chinese military took necessary measures at the scene to warn and alert the Australian side,” he said, adding that the situation was handled in a manner consistent with China’s law and regulations, and was professional and safe.
“China has lodged serious protests with the Australian side over its risky moves,” Lin said. “We urge the Australian side to immediately stop the provocations and hype to prevent misunderstanding and miscalculation.”
China has also been accused of unsafe behaviour in the skies by other countries, including Canada and the United States.
Australia has also previously charged China with “unsafe and unprofessional” actions at sea.
This incident comes ahead of the Chinese premier’s expected visit to Australia next month.
The incident is the second in six months to mar what has otherwise been a growing rapprochement between the two countries after years of strained relations and trade disputes.
Earlier, a similar incident took place in November when a Chinese naval vessel injured some of its divers in Japanese waters using an underwater sonar. China denied it had used its sonar; however, Australia rejected the explanation.
(With inputs from agencies


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