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China lashes out at Australia over 'irresponsible' warship claims

Conflicting accounts of a 'dangerous' maritime encounter highlights the challenges Australia faces with its improving relationship with China.

China has taken aim at Australia, accusing Canberra of lying about a confrontation with a Chinese warship that injured Australian navy divers.

China refutes the account provided by Australian authorities of the encounter, where they claimed military personnel from the HMAS Toowoomba were injured off the coast of Japan last Tuesday with sonar pulses.

The claim prompted China's defence ministry to lash such claims, saying the account is "completely inconsistent with the facts" and China's navy kept a safe distance.

"We urge the Australian side to respect the facts and stop making reckless and irresponsible accusations against China," it said.

Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping
The incident highlights the challenges Australia faces with its improving relationship with China. Source: Getty

It comes just a week after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held constructive talks with China's President Xi Jinping, and while the meet in Beijing was widely hailed, the latest incident is a grounding reminder of the complexities and difficulties that remain in the relationship.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning urged Australia to "stop making trouble in front of China's doorsteps".

On Monday Albanese reiterated his government's stance on the situation, telling Sky News China's actions were "dangerous, unsafe and unprofessional".

Chinese experts speaking to the Global Times said it was telling that Australia never released an exact location of the encounter.

"Did the incident take place near China's Diaoyu Islands or the island of Taiwan? Or was it close to a PLA training exercise? If that is the case, it was obvious that the Australian warship provoked China in the first place," one anonymous expert said.

Albanese has recognised the Sino-Australian relationship will continue to have its challenges, which Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil has since echoed.

"This is one of the largest countries in the world, we are going to have to find a way to coexist in our region over the coming decades," she said.

Chinese experts have cast doubt on the location of the incident involving HMAS Toowoomba.
Chinese experts have cast doubt on the location of the incident involving HMAS Toowoomba.

Failing to raise incident with China's president would be 'outrageous'

There are claims Albanese knew about the incident before his meeting with Xi, with the opposition and crossbenchers calling for the prime minister to explicitly say whether he raised the incident with the Chinese president.

"You can't sit there and pretend you're going to be nice on trade while this is going on with your own navy people that could have brought more harm to them," Independent senator Jacqui Lambie told Sky News on Monday.

"This is just ridiculous. What happened to the friendship and the trust that we're building and all the rest?"

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said if the prime minister knew about the incident and deliberately withheld the information, it was "outrageous and unacceptable".

Mr Albanese said he would not reveal whether he did raise with Xi or not, but stressed the matter was raised "in the appropriate way and very clearly".

Australia and China are working to stabilise their diplomatic relationship following years of tension that developed under Scott Morrison's leadership.

- With AAP and Reuters

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Yahoo Australia