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China’s military has claimed an Australian surveillance aircraft was flying in a “malicious” and “unprofessional” fashion close to its warships when the plane was targeted by a laser weapon.

China was accused of putting lives at risk by the Australian Government last month when a laser was directed towards a RAAF P-8 Poseidon plane as it monitored two People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) warships sailing through the Arafura Sea.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defence (MND) this week released a short video clip recorded on a warship, apparently showing the Australian aircraft flying close by in a “nuisance” manner.

A Chinese PLA navy ship attacked a P-8A Poseidon with a laser last Thursday.
A Chinese PLA navy ship attacked a P-8A Poseidon with a laser last month.. (Department of Defence)

“It is evident in the video taken by the Chinese naval ship that the Australian military aircraft was conducting close-in reconnaissance on Chinese naval vessels,” Senior Colonel Tan Kefei said.

“The Australian military aircraft’s conduct was malicious in intention and unprofessional in operation and posed threats to the safety of ships, aircraft and personnel of both sides.”

The targeting of the Australian aircraft by the military-grade laser was condemned by the Federal Government last month.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton called it “a very dangerous act” which endangered the lives of 10 crew.

A Department of Defence map shows a timeline of events leading to the laser attack
A Department of Defence map shows a timeline of events leading to the laser attack (Department of Defence)

The two PLA navy ships, which included a guided missile destroyer, had been sailing in the Arafura Sea, across the Torres Strait and into the Coral Sea on February 17 when the attack on the P8 with a very strong military-grade laser was launched.

“This is a industrial-scale technique,” Mr Dutton said, explaining the power and consequences of the laser striking an aircraft.

“It can disrupt the radars and in certain circumstances blind the crew,” he said.”It was a very dangerous act.”

Mr Dutton said the P8 had been tracking the Chinese vessels because “these two ships were in our zone” and “China would do exactly the same if we were traversing ships through their waters”.

The Department of Defence strongly condemned 'unprofessional and unsafe military conduct'.
The Department of Defence strongly condemned ‘unprofessional and unsafe military conduct’. (Department of Defence)
Since 2016, Beijing has steadily weaponised the South China Sea, building artificial reefs and installing military bases on some of them.

Why the South China Sea dispute matters

The US and its allies, including Australia, have expressed concern over China’s ambitions in Asia and the Pacific.

Source: 9News

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