New twist in China-Australia military dispute off NT coast: 'Malicious'

·Associate News Editor
·2-min read

China is refusing to let up on a military dispute off the Northern Territory's coast, releasing video of an Australian aircraft which Beijing says proves it acted "maliciously".

Last month Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an explanation over an "unacceptable" incident where he accused a Chinese vessel of shining a laser at a P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft, which his government says endangered the lives of those on board.

Yet China rejected such claims, saying it was in fact the aircraft that was the instigator of the dispute by flying four kilometres from the vessel and casting sonar buoys in a "spiteful and provocative" act.

A still from footage shared by China's Ministry of Defence showing what it claims to be an Australian aircraft. Source: Chinese Ministry of National Defence
A still from footage shared by China's Ministry of Defence showing what it claims to be an Australian aircraft. Source: Chinese Ministry of National Defence

At the time it released photos of the aircraft and buoys near the warship.

China's Ministry of National Defence has now shared video the aircraft to support its claims.

"It is evident in the video taken... the Australian military aircraft’s conduct was malicious in intention and unprofessional in operation, and posed threats to the safety of ships, aircraft and personnel of both sides," spokesperson Senior Colonel Tan Kefei said.

He said Australia had "repeatedly spread disinformation" on the incident and accused Australia of being a "troublemaker" in the Indo-Pacific.

Senior Colonel Tan also took aim at the Morrison government, claiming it continues to exaggerate and hype up the "China threat".

It's a stance repeatedly verbalised by China's foreign ministry, which has refuted Defence Minister Peter Dutton's remarks in which he believes the chances of military conflict in the region are heightened as a result of China's growth.

A senior minister responded to the release of the video, telling the ABC it was "just farcical" and it was near-impossible to ascertain the aircraft in the video was Australian.

The Defence Department maintains its aircraft passed the warship at a safe distance.

Senior Colonel Tan Kefei accused Australia of a 'malicious' act. Source: Ministry of National Defence
Senior Colonel Tan Kefei accused Australia of a 'malicious' act. Source: Ministry of National Defence

Australia follows US with warning to China

It comes as Canberra expressed its intentions to follow the US in its actions if China assisted Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said any country directly supporting Russia "would face consequences" from Australia.

"I know that the United States has said that there would be coordination with partners and allies on any such response and Australia would be part of that coordination," she told 2GB.

US officials claim Russia has asked Beijing for military and economic aid, with State Department spokesman Ned Price telling reporters on Monday the US "won't stand by" if China was to oblige.

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