Beijing Says Dangerous Air Maneuvers Against Australian Aircraft Acceptable

By Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
June 8, 2022 Updated: June 8, 2022

Beijing has defended a PLA pilot’s dangerous air maneuvers made against an Australian military plane that was conducting maritime surveillance in international airspace in the South China Sea, stating the actions were “reasonable, and legitimate.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Ministry of Defence claimed that the Australian P-8A aircraft entered its sovereign airspace over the internationally contested Paracel Islands, which China calls the Xisha Islands, and accused Australia of seeking to do close-in reconnaissance.

“The Australian warplane has seriously threatened China’s sovereignty and security and the countermeasures taken by the Chinese military are professional, safe, reasonable, and legitimate,” the spokesperson said.

The Paracel Islands are an internationally contested group of islands, atolls, and coral reefs in the South China Sea near Vietnam. Currently, ownership of the archipelago is contested by Taiwan, China, and Vietnam.

An aerial view of Qilianyu islands
An aerial view of Qilian Yu islands in the Paracel chain on Aug. 10, 2018. (AFP via Getty Images)

Beijing also accused Australia of “repeatedly” disseminating false information and instigating what the Chinese regime termed “hostility and confrontation.” China also urged Australia to immediately stop its international maritime surveillance, “or it will bear all the serious consequences arising.”

Meanwhile, new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government has raised the issue with Beijing but he wouldn’t be making further comment on the matter “other than to say that, in the Australian government’s view, this was not safe.”

The comments from the CCP come after Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who is also the Defence Minister, explained on June 5 that a J-16 Chinese military jet had released flares as it flew close to the side of the Australian P-8 aircraft while the P-8 was on its regular maritime surveillance flight in international airspace.

The Chinese jet then accelerated and cut across the nose of the Australian plane, before releasing a “bundle of chaff” containing small aluminum pieces, some of which were “ingested” into the P-8’s engine.

“Quite obviously, this is very dangerous,” Marles said.

But he said that the incident “will not deter” Australia from engaging in surveillance activity that is “within our rights in international law.”

“Other countries do the same,” Marles said. “We are deeply invested in the rights of freedom of navigation 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.”

Epoch Times Photo
A file image of the then deputy leader of the opposition Richard Marles at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Dec. 7, 2020. Marles is now the country’s deputy prime minister and the defense minister. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

The incident continues Beijing’s increasingly intimidating behavior toward Australia and comes less than a month after it was revealed by then-Defence Minister Peter Dutton on May 19 that a Chinese surveillance ship was tracking along the Australian shoreline off the coast of Western Australia.

It also follows three months after a Chinese warship pointed a laser at a Royal Australian military aircraft.

On Feb. 17, as an Australian P-8A aircraft was monitoring a Chinese navy vessel in the Arafura Sea—in international waters but inside Australia’s exclusive economic zone—the Chinese warship reportedly aimed a military-grade laser at the P-8A.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) said such action could have put the lives of its personnel in danger, while then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned it as an “act of intimidation.”

International security and intelligence expert Prof. John Blaxland from the Australian National University told The Epoch Times that he believed that China is prepared to do everything in its power to put increasing pressure on Australia to become part of China’s circle of power.

“I think they’re prepared to go there,” Blaxland said.

He has previously told The Epoch Times that he believed China was increasing the pressure on Australia as Beijing believed by intimidating and bullying Australia, it would push us away from our ally the United States.

“And I think there’s enough circumstantial evidence to mount a reasonably strong case that they are trying to and have been trying to for a number of years wean us off the United States security lines. And it’s, to be honest, it’s in the last few months. It’s backfired,” Blaxland said.

“We’ve made it very clear that we’re with the United States, and we’re doing that for a couple of reasons. One is because of the remarkably adversarial approach of China in recent years under President Xi, and his exercise of sharp power and wolf warrior diplomacy.”

Nina Nguyen contributed to this article. 

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.