A Chinese warship has been tracked off the coast of Western Australia, Defense Minister Peter Dutton has revealed.
Dutton said the ship, which has intelligence-gathering capabilities, had entered Australia’s exclusive economic zone and was “hugging the coastline”.
Dutton said the ship was sighted at 6 a.m. on Friday, about 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome.
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“It’s unusual in terms of how it’s come so far south and how it hugs the coast as it heads towards Darwin,” he said.
“It’s an aggressive act, particularly because he’s come so far south – for him to come south of Exmouth is unprecedented.”
Dutton said Australian authorities are monitoring the situation closely.
The Ministry of Defense later confirmed that it had been made aware of a People’s Liberation Army (PLA-N) intelligence collection vessel operating off Australia’s northwest shelf .
“The Defense can confirm that the vessel is a PLA-N, Dongdiao-class Auxiliary Intelligence Vessel named Haiwangxing,” he said.
“The Haiwangxing cruised the west coast of Australia to around Exmouth, before changing course to head east along the northwest coast.
“Defence is actively monitoring the current activities of the Chinese intelligence collection vessel off the northwest coast of Western Australia with a combination of air and sea capabilities.
“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.”
In November last year, the Chinese general intelligence vessel Yuhengxing reportedly spent three weeks off the Australian coast, entering Australia’s 200km Exclusive Economic Zone near Darwin as it transited the Torres Strait and sailed to Sydney in August and September.
At the time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the vessel was in waters off the Australian coast and not territorial waters, adding that it was legally permitted to be there under international maritime law. , just as Australia is allowed to cross the South China Sea.
“They were watching us closely and we were watching them closely,” he said.
Watch the video below to see Scott Morrison respond to Chinese spy ship allegations in November
Morrison said significant security concerns in the region warranted strong Australian action and reiterated the government’s need to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
“Australia has to be able to stand up and that takes great strength,” he said.
“The presence of the Chinese navy shows Australians that there is a very serious situation in the Indo-Pacific.
“There’s never a time for weakness…especially at a time when you’re dealing with these very significant security issues and the economic challenges that we have.
“No one can be happy with the situation.”
– with PAA