Monday, June 6, 2022

Richard Marles reveals what happened when Chinese J-16 jet intercepted RAAF P-8 maritime aircraft over South China Sea

 The Defence Minister has revealed further details about what happened when a Chinese military jet intercepted an Australian aircraft last month in what has been described by Defence officials as a "dangerous manoeuvre".

Defence Minister Richard Marles has revealed details into the incident between a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft and a Chinese military jet in the South China Sea.
The Defence Department released a statement on Sunday to announce a P-8 plane was intercepted by a jet during "routine maritime surveillance" in international airspace.
A "dangerous manoeuvre" by the Chinese aircraft left the Australian crew on the P-8 maritime plane fearing for their safety.
"Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace," it said in a statement.
Mr Marles was briefed on the "very dangerous" incident and detailed what occurred last month on May 26 over the highly disputed body of water.
"What occurred was that the J-16 (Chinese) aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 (Australian) maritime surveillance aircraft," he said.
"In flying close to the side, it released flares.
"The J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance.
"At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff, which contains small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.
"Quite obviously, this is very dangerous."
He said the crew, who were uninjured, responded "professionally and in a manner which would make us all proud" by returning the plane to its base.
The Australian Government have expressed their concerns and flagged the issue with Beijing.
Mr Marles said China have responded but he would not reveal what Chinese officials have said, adding it was a "matter for them" to address.
He defended the actions of the Australian crew who were in the region for surveillance activity which it has regularly undertaken in the South China Sea "for decades".
"Other countries do the same," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
"We are operating completely within our rights in international law because the South China Sea matters to Australia because most of our trade traverses the South China Sea.
"We are deeply invested in the rights of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
"And so, to that end, I want to make it very clear this incident will not deter Australia to engage in these activities which are within our rights at international law to assure there is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea that is fundamentally in our nation’s interests."
He was then quizzed whether tensions could further escalate between Beijing and Canberra after the latest incident between their aircrafts.
Mr Marles stressed he did not want to see an increase in militarisation in the South China Sea.
"This is a body of water that is deeply connected to Australia because of our trade which goes through there," the Defence Minister said.
"What’s important is to let the Australian public know what has occurred and the representations we have made to China."
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese repeated the remarks from Defence during a press conference in Western Australia prior to Mr Marles revealing the details.
"I won't be making further comment on it, other than to say that in the Australian Government's view, in the Defence Department's view, this was not safe, what occurred, and we've made appropriate representations to the Chinese government expressing our concern at this," he said.
The 59-year-old was questioned if he was sending "mixed signals" as the statement could insist Australia viewed China as a rival instead of a partner.
"We have strategic competition in the region," Mr Albanese said in response before he jets off to Jakarta to meet dignitaries alongside Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
"What we need to do is to make sure that we have competition, recognise that it's there without catastrophe. And I certainly seek peaceful relations with all of our neighbours, recognising the challenges, though, which are there."
He is expected to speak to Indonesia Prime Minister Joko Widodo in a bilateral leaders' meeting about China's growing influence in the Pacific region and discussions about his pledge of further aid and a special envoy for the region.



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