Sydney, Australia, May 13 (EFE).- Defense Minister Peter Dutton Friday said a high-tech Chinese spy ship was spotted sailing near an Australian naval base off the western coast that supports submarines of the United States and allied nations.
Dutton said the “warship with intelligence-gathering capacity” crossed the waters near the Harold E Holt naval base in Exmouth last week.
The naval base, which houses a powerful transmission station, provides communication support to submarines of Australia and the United States in the western Pacific and eastern Indian oceans.
“It is obviously very strange that it has come this far south and it is hugging the coastline as it goes north, and its intention will be to collect as much electronic intelligence as it can,” the defense minister said.
“It is strange timing and without precedent.”
A defense ministry statement identified the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) Intelligence Collection Vessel operating off the northwest shelf of Australia Dongdiao Class Auxiliary Intelligence ship named Haiwangxing.
“Defense is actively monitoring the current activities of the Chinese intelligence collection vessel off the northwest coast of Western Australia with a combination of air and maritime capabilities.
The statement said Australia respected the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, “just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same.”
“Defense will continue to monitor the ship’s operation in our maritime approaches,” it said.
Australia had previously expressed its growing concern over the naval outreach of China, its top trading partner.
China announced in April that it signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands that further deteriorated the bilateral ties between Canberra and Beijing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, seeking re-election in the May 21 election, has accused a Chinese warship of a “reckless and irresponsible act” after a laser was shone at Australian reconnaissance planes in the Arafura Sea between New Guinea and Australia.
Australia signed a defense pact with the United States and the United Kingdom in September 2021, which includes the construction of nuclear submarines in the oceanic country, to stand up to China in the Indo-Pacific region.
The pact has enraged China. EFE