China's veiled threat to Australia after 'provocative' act: 'Stop immediately'

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·Associate News Editor
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China has officially hit back at claims from Canberra one of its fighter planes acted with aggression towards an Australian aircraft, putting lives at risk by intercepting it.

China's Ministry of Defence finally responded to the matter after the Albanese government expressed its anger several times over the altercation in the South China Sea late last month.

Addressing reporters on Tuesday, Chinese defence spokesperson Senior Colonel Tan Kefei confirmed the incident but suggested it was Australia who was the aggressor.

"[The aircraft] continuously approached China's territorial airspace over the Xisha Islands in disregard of repeated warnings from the Chinese side," he said.

FILE - In this undated file photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, a Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet flies in an undisclosed location. Australia on Sunday, June 5, 2022, said a Chinese  J-16 fighter jet carried out dangerous maneuvers threatening the safety of one of its maritime surveillance planes over the South China Sea. (Taiwan Ministry of Defense via AP, File)
A Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet was involved in the altercation. Source: Taiwan Ministry of Defense via AP, file image.

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Chinese aircraft had acted "dangerously", Senior Colonel Tan said it had acted in a "safe and reasonable" manner in a bid to warn off the Australian aircraft.

He took aim at Australia, accusing the Albanese government of fabricating its claims.

"The Australian warplane has seriously threatened China's sovereignty and security," he said.

"It is the Australia side that confuses black and white, repeatedly disseminates false information and instigates the hostility and confrontation."

National Defense spokesperson Tan Kefei warned such acts from Australia must stop. Source: PRC Ministry of Defence
National Defense spokesperson Tan Kefei warned such acts from Australia must stop. Source: PRC Ministry of Defence

In a veiled threat of retaliation, Senior Colonel Tan said Australia would "bear all the serious consequences" if it did not "immediately stop such dangerous and provocative acts and strictly restrict the operations of its naval and air forces."

Hours later China's foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was pressed on Australia's claims, repeating Senior Colonel Tan's remarks.

China urges Australia to make first move to improve relations

He went on to address Sino-Australian relations, which have drastically soured in recent years. Beijing has offered hope of a reset following Mr Albanese's election win, however he warned hours after being sworn in the relationship would likely remain difficult due to China's behaviour.

China's foreign ministry repeatedly called on former prime minister Scott Morrison to make amends for China's grievances at the hands of Canberra, including interference in matters it deemed internal such as Xinjiang human rights abuse allegations as well as the blocking of Chinese investment over national security concerns.

A robust Mr Morrison refused to kowtow to Beijing's demands, with Mr Zhao reiterating on Tuesday that Australia's new government must be the ones to take action to improve the relationship.

"China’s position on its relations with Australia is consistent and clear," he said.

"The Australian side needs to manage the bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit, and bring China-Australia relations back onto the right track of sound and steady progress."

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