A Chinese vessel shining a laser at an Australian surveillance aircraft was a “completely unacceptable” act, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, calling for a full Chinese investigation.
“We’ve demanded there be an investigation on the behavior of what occurred on that vessel. It was dangerous, it was reckless, and it was unprofessional for what should be a sophisticated navy,” he told reporters in an interaction in Tasmania.
“We expect China to provide some answers on those matters.”
The Australian Defense Force (ADF) said this past Saturday that a Chinese navy vessel shone a “military-grade” laser at a plane conducting coastal maritime surveillance on Feb. 17, terming it a “serious safety incident.”
It happened when two Chinese ships were sailing east through the Arafura Sea, and both vessels have since transited through the Torres Strait to the Coral Sea, according to the ADF.
Morrison said “all countries in the region” want an explanation from Beijing.
“It’s an Australian surveillance aircraft this time, (but) who’s next? So, it’s very important that China explain themselves about this act of recklessness in our exclusive economic zone,” he stressed.
“They had every right to be there and travelling through those waters. Just as Australian vessels have every right to be up through the South China Sea, as well as the British and the Americans and the Japanese and the French and the Germans and the Canadians and everyone else sails through there. But it’s not okay to be doing what occurred there on the weekend, and we expect a full explanation.”
– ‘False information’
Beijing has rejected Canberra’s allegations as “not factual.”
“Australia’s claim about a Chinese vessel illuminating an Australian military aircraft is not factual as the Chinese vessels were sailing in international waters normally,” Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference in Beijing.
“Australia should respect Chinese vessels’ lawful rights and refrain from spreading false information,” he was quoted as saying by Chinese daily Global Times.