Saturday May 28, 2022

Australian minister says China spy ship route ‘aggressive’

May 14, 2022

SYDNEY: Australia’s defence minister said on Friday that a Chinese spy ship was sailing off the west coast on an "aggressive" route, the latest in a string of pre-election warnings about Beijing’s military intentions.

In the run-up to May 21 federal elections, with the government trailing in opinion polls, Defence Minister Peter Dutton has been warning voters not to trust the opposition Labor Party with Australia’s security.

Dutton called a news conference in Perth to say that a Chinese surveillance vessel had been sailing close to the West Australian coastline for the "last week or so". The minister said he could not reveal when Australia became aware of the ship for "operational reasons". But a defence ministry media statement showed it had been tracked from May 6-13.

Australia’s air force was monitoring the ship, which had entered the country’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The zone extends beyond Australia’s territorial waters and the government has previously said it accepts Chinese spy ships can operate there.

"Its intention, of course, is to collect intelligence right along the coastline, and it has been in close proximity to military and intelligence installations," Dutton said. The defence minister said it was "unusual" in the way that it had sailed so far south and was hugging the coastline. "I think that it is an aggressive act and I think particularly because it has come so far south," Dutton said.