Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Friday that a Chinese Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) vessel was seen the same morning on the nation’s western coastline, near a secretive communications base that supports allied submarines including those from the United States.
Australia’s Defence Force identified the vessel as a Dongdiao Class Auxiliary Intelligence ship named Haiwangxing.
The news comes after Australia commenced a program to add eight high-tech nuclear-powered submarines to its navy, as part of the AUKUS defence alliance deal sealed between Australia, Britain and the US in September 2021.
Britain and America agreed to provide Australia with nuclear maritime technology to counter Communist Chinese threats in the Pacific region.
China-Australia tensions have also intensified following the communist regime’s recent security deal with Australia’s neighbour, the Solomon Islands.
“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,” reads a statement from the Defence Force on the recent Chinese AGI vessel sighting.
“Defence will continue to monitor the ship’s operation in our maritime approaches.”
Mr Dutton told reporters that the Defence Force monitored the warship’s passage near the Harold E Holt naval station in Exmouth.
“Its intention, of course, is to collect intelligence right along the coastline,” said Mr Dutton.
“It has been in close proximity to military and intelligence installations on the west coast of Australia.”
Australia has tracked the ship’s movement along the coastline for the past week.
“I think it is an aggressive act, and I think particularly because it has come so far south,” stated Mr Dutton.
Mr Dutton said it was unusual for the Chinese spy vessel to be so far south, adding that authorities are closely watching the ship using planes and other surveillance methods.
The minister added that he wanted to openly and honestly communicate the situation with Australians.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also commented on the Communist Chinese spy vessel sighting.
“The first thing I want to make very clear is, this is freedom of navigation. I mean, they are able to be in these places, they are not in Australian waters or anything like that, but it is unusual for a ship to be coming that far south,” said Mr Morrison.
“[But] if you look at this in the context of the many acts that the Chinese government has taken towards Australia, that is concerning.”
Meanwhile, Communist Chinese Party (CCP) Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed that he knew nothing of the spy ship situation and accused Australia of making sensational remarks.
“China always abides by international law and international practice,” said Mr Lijian at a daily briefing.
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