Beijing, Nov 21 (EFE).- China denied claims by Australia which it said were “completely inconsistent with the facts” accusing the Chinese navy of acting in a dangerous and unprofessional manner against Australian military divers in international waters near Japan.
“Australia’s remarks are completely inconsistent with the facts. China firmly opposes this and has lodged stern representations with Australia,” Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said in a press conference late Monday.
Wu said that the Chinese ships “strictly abided by international rules,” maintained a “safe distance” from the Australian vessels, and “did not conduct any activities that might affect the Australian diving operations.”
“We urge Australia to respect the facts, stop making reckless and irresponsible accusations against China, do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust between the two sides, and create a positive atmosphere for the better development of relations between the two countries and their militaries,” the spokesperson added.
Australia on Saturday expressed “serious concerns” following an “unsafe and unprofessional” interaction between a Chinese destroyer and an Australian ship resulting in several divers sustaining minor injuries.
“While diving operations were underway a PLA-N destroyer (DDG-139) operating in the vicinity closed towards HMAS Toowoomba,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said in a statement.
The minister said that the incident occurred in international waters inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone on Nov. 14 when the Australian frigate had stopped to conduct diving operations in order to clear fishing nets that had become entangled around its propellers.
Marles said that despite the HMAS Toowoomba communicating its intention to conduct diving operations on normal maritime channels, and using internationally recognized signals, the Chinese destroyer approached the ship and was detected “operating its hull-mounted sonar in a manner that posed a risk to the safety of the Australian divers who were forced to exit the water.”
The incident occurs amid efforts by both countries to improve ties.
In early November, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described a visit to China during which he met Chinese president, Xi Jinping, as an important step towards stabilizing relations between Beijing and Canberra after years of bilateral tensions.
During the visit, the two leaders agreed to resume the annual leaders’ meetings between China and Australia.
Ties between Beijing and Canberra began to deteriorate in 2017 over Australian laws against foreign interference and Australia’s exclusion of Chinese companies from its 5G network in 2018, to which Beijing responded in 2020 with tough trade measures. EFE