Australian Military Diver Injured by Chinese Naval Vessel’s Sonar

‘The consequences of these events are that they do damage to the relationship,’ Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
Australian Military Diver Injured by Chinese Naval Vessel’s Sonar
A People's Liberation Army Navy intelligence collection vessel, Haiwangxing, operating off the northwest shelf of Australia in an image supplied on May 13, 2022. (Courtesy of the Australian Department of Defence)
Andrew Thornebrooke

An Australian naval diver was injured by a Chinese military vessel last week as Australian navy personnel sought to conduct underwater repairs on a frigate.

The HMAS Toowoomba, a naval frigate, was conducting a diving operation to clear fishing nets from its propellers on Nov. 14 when the incident occurred, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said.

The Toowoomba notified an approaching Chinese warship of the diving operation and requested that it keep clear of the area, according to Mr. Marles. However, the Chinese vessel disregarded the request.

“Soon after, it was detected operating its hull-mounted sonar in a manner that posed a risk to the safety of the Australian divers, who were forced to exit the water,” he said.

The “unsafe and unprofessional” act resulted in an Australian diver suffering minor injuries, likely caused by the destroyer’s sonar, according to Mr. Marles. Active sonar can affect human divers with unpleasant effects, including dizziness, headaches, and hearing damage.

The incident occurred within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, where China has no legal claim to any resources.

‘Unsafe and Unprofessional’ Encounter

The encounter worsened an already strained relationship between Australia and China’s communist regime. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the aggressive behavior had damaged ties between the two nations.
“This was dangerous. It was unsafe and unprofessional from the Chinese warship,” Mr. Albanese said during a Nov. 20 interview with Sky News.

“The consequences of these events are that they do damage to the relationship. And this certainly is an event that does do damage. And we’ve made that very clear to China.”

The Chinese Defense Ministry, in turn, denied the allegations altogether.

Mr. Marles said the safety and well-being of Australian military personnel was the government’s “utmost priority” and that it expected China to behave more professionally in the future.

“Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner,” he said.

CCP Illegally Expanding Territory

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state, is engaged in an aggressive campaign of expansion throughout the Indo-Pacific.
In recent years, the regime has constructed artificial islands that it now uses as military installations and has sought to intimidate other nations in the region into ceding power and territory.
The illegal expansion of its territory and influence in the South and East China seas, as well as increasing aggression in the Sea of Japan, is best illustrated by the regime’s use of dangerous sea and aerial maneuvers that threaten other nations that lawfully pass through the region or seek to access resources.
There have been hundreds of incidents of such CCP aggression in recent years. Most notably, in October, a CCP naval vessel rammed a Philippine ship. Likewise, last year, a Chinese fighter jet launched metal shards into the engine of an Australian aircraft.
The United States has urged the CCP to work with regional partners to craft and adhere to a realistic set of rules for the region, although the regime has thus far failed to do so.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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