February 21, 2022
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a Chinese naval vessel that pointed a laser at an Australian defence plane was potentially visible from Australia’s mainland, as Canberra demands a “full investigation” by Beijing.
Morrison said on radio on Monday his government had not received an explanation from China over the incident last Thursday, considered by Canberra as a “dangerous and reckless act”.
A Chinese navy vessel within Australia’s exclusive economic zone directed a laser at an Australian military aircraft in flight over Australia’s northern approaches, illuminating the plane and potentially endangering lives, Australia’s defence said on Saturday.
The P-8A Poseidon – a maritime patrol aircraft – detected a laser emanating from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) vessel, the Defence Department said, releasing photographs of two Chinese vessels sailing close to Australia’s northern coast.
A Chinese guided missile destroyer and an amphibious transport dock were sailing east through the Arafura Sea between New Guinea and Australia at the time of the incident, and later passed through the narrow Torres Strait.
“It’s possible people could even see the vessel from our mainland, potentially,” Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Monday.
Australia had called through diplomatic and defence channels for “a full investigation into this event”, he said on local radio.
He compared the incident to a hypothetical situation of an Australian frigate pointing a laser at Chinese surveillance aircraft in the Taiwan Strait, adding: “Could you imagine their reaction to that in Beijing?”
The Chinese embassy in Canberra did not respond to a request for comment. Beijing has not commented publicly about the incident.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)