Sydney, Australia, Feb 21 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister on Monday demanded that Beijing carry out a “full investigation” into the alleged use of a military-grade laser by a Chinese naval vessel on an Australian air force surveillance plane in the Arafura Sea.
“We haven’t received an explanation as yet, but what we’ve called for, working through the diplomatic and defense channels, is a full investigation into this event and for them to provide answers to how this dangerous act could be undertaken,” Scott Morrison said in an interview on 2GB radio on Monday, the transcript of which was posted to his website.
On Saturday, Australia’s defense ministry said “a P-8A Poseidon detected a laser illuminating the aircraft while in flight over Australia’s northern approaches” last Thursday.
“The laser was detected as emanating from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) vessel. Illumination of the aircraft by the Chinese vessel is a serious safety incident.”
Morrison, who on Monday called the incident “a dangerous and reckless act” “of intimidation and bullying,” had said the previous day that the incident occurred in Australia’s exclusive economic zone, referring to the 200 nautical miles around the country, but not in its territorial waters.
It occurs in the context of an intense political debate in recent days in the country about the threat posed by Beijing’s interference with Australia’s security and defense, and ahead of this year’s federal elections in which the Morrison’s government seeks re-election.
For five years, Australia has been shielding itself from potential aggression from other nations with laws to block alleged foreign interference in the country’s politics and economy, without directly naming China, who is suspected of computer attacks against universities and government entities.
Relations between Australia and China began to deteriorate in 2018 when Canberra excluded the telecommunications company Huawei from its 5G network, and in 2020 urged an investigation into the origin of Covid-19, while Beijing imposed tariffs on several products from the country.
In September last year, Australia once again infuriated the Chinese government with the announcement of a defense pact with the United States and the United Kingdom, which includes the construction of nuclear submarines, with the aim of countering China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Beijing considers the criticism and measures adopted by Canberra, such as its denunciations of human rights violations in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang and the arrest of activists and journalists with dual Chinese-Australian nationality as foreign interference. EFE