Australia PM reaches out to China over fighter jet encounter
As per the Australia’s Department of Defence, a RAAF P-8 aircraft was undertaking routine maritime surveillance activity in the region on May 26 when it was intercepted by a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that his government has reached out to Beijing to raise concerns over a “dangerous maneuver” between a Chinese fighter jet and an Australian surveillance plane over the South China Sea.
“The Department of Defence has for many decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region an does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace,” Albanese said.
In recent few years, the Chinese government has expanded its control over the South China Sea, which it says is part of its national terms despite several overlapping claims from neighboring countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. Since 2015, Beijing has built and militarized a number of artificial islands to solidify its claims.
“This was taking it to the next level. This was an attempt to interfere with the safety of the aircraft. Short of firing missiles or firing the aircraft’s cannon. trying to shoot down the aircraft, this was a hostile act on the part of the Chinese,” he said.
Malcolm Davis, who is senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said it was also possible Beijing could be testing Australia’s new prime minister, who was sworn in on May 23.
Chinese and Australian forces have had a lot of tense encounters in recent months. In February, Australia called for a complete investigation after it accused a Chinese naval vessel of targeting an Australian defense aircraft with a laser off the country’s northern coastline. Then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison called it an “act of intimidation.”