The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been following a Chinese surveillance ship off the coast of Western Australia since last week, according to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton. The surveillance ship was spotted near a classified naval communications centre that supports submarines controlled by the US and Australia’s defence allies.
Dutton stated that the spy ship, also known as an auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel, was closely observed by the ADF when it passed by the Harold E Holt naval base in Exmouth. ‘Of course, its goal is to gather intelligence all down the shoreline. It has been near military and intelligence stations on Australia’s west coast,’ Dutton was cited as saying by the ABC, Australia’s official broadcaster.
Dutton was also concerned that the ship had travelled so far south, and that when it returned north towards Darwin, it virtually hugged the shoreline. He stated that this was an unusual situation and that he expected the ship to acquire as much information as possible.
‘I believe people appreciate the challenge, the reality, of the Indo-Pacific at the moment, the acts of aggression from the Chinese leadership and from the Chinese government,’ Dutton said, denying that he was leaking the material to sway voters ahead of the May 21 federal election. He stated that Australians have the right to know what is going on.
This is the second time the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has taken actions that might jeopardise Australia’s security. The Australian government confirmed earlier this year that a Chinese navy vessel fired a laser at an Australian defence jet.
At the same time, it was disclosed that a Chinese guided-missile destroyer and an amphibious transport dock were heading east across the Arafura Sea between New Guinea and Australia, near enough to be seen from the Australian mainland. At the time, Australia objected because such an act amounted to provocation. This is because military-grade lasers are used to calculate the firing range and mark a target before launching a weapon.