Chinese experts have slammed accusations made by the Australian government that one of China’s naval vessels pointed a laser at an Australian surveillance aircraft.
The Australian Defence Department on Saturday said that on Thursday the P-8A Poseidon detected a laser coming from a People's Liberation Army Navy vessel, illuminating the aircraft while in flight in Australia's exclusive economic zone in the Arafura Sea off the country's Top End.
But Chinese state-run outlet the Global Times has rubbished claims made by the Australian government as “an attempt to throw mud”.
The publication claims the ship was providing assistance to Tonga and the Solomon Islands.
Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the Global Times the Australian government failed to tell people how close the aircraft was flying to the vessel.
Another expert with close ties to China's People's Liberation Army, who went unnamed, told the paper laser rangefinders are used on most modern warships to determine distance.
“Australia does not like China providing concrete benefits to other countries near Australia, so it is finding all ways to discredit China,” the Beijing mouthpiece reported, citing analysts.
'Completely unacceptable', PM says
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Monday China needs to provide an explanation.
“This is completely unacceptable and so we have demanded there be an investigation on the behaviour of what occurred on the vessel, it was dangerous, it was reckless and it was unprofessional for what should be a sophisticated navy,” the PM said.
“We expect China to provide answers on those matters and we're going through the appropriate channels to achieve that, and we expect not just Australia [but] all countries in the region demanded an answer to this.”
Mr Morrison said the ship did however have “every right to be there” but said the act “was not OK”.
China has yet to officially respond to the accusations from Australia.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the laser had the potential to blind the crew and disrupt the aircraft's radar.
"This is not a laser that you buy down at the shop," he told the Nine Network.
"This is a military technique and it is military-grade equipment."
Mr Dutton said he will write to his Chinese counterpart as defence department officials reach out to their counterparts, but a response may not be forthcoming given the frosty bilateral relationship.
"We will see what sort of response, if any, we get," he said.
"We want that open dialogue, we want a good relationship. But Australia is not going to be bullied, we aren't going to walk away from our obligations to the rule of law."
It is the latest chapter in the icy relationship between Australia and China.
China last week criticised a $47 million move by Australia and the UK to promote "peace and stability" in the Indo-Pacific.
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