Australian Prime Minister: Chinese navy has “every right” to operate in our exclusive economic zone


A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) naval soldier looks through a pair of binoculars aboard China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning as he visits a military port on the South China Sea. Photo by Xinhua

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Chinese Navy ships have every right to operate in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, just as Australia and other countries have the right to move freely in the South China Sea, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

At a press conference today in South Australia, Morrison was asked about reports that the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) naval watch vessel Yuhengxing (798) had conducted surveillance off Australia for three weeks in August and September.

“They have every right to be there under international maritime law, just as we have every right to be in the South China Sea, and other free liberal and democratic countries have every right to have freedom of movement in the South China Sea. Our movements in the South China Sea and those of other countries have been a challenge for Australia, ”said Morrison.

Morrison went on to say that because Australia has defended its right to be in the South China Sea, has emphasized free speech and press freedom, and is strengthening its defense capacity – including building nuclear-powered submarines – China has taken on problems with Australia and the two countries have strained relations. Morrison added that these issues, however, “are not issues that a self-respecting government like Australia’s, or even any self-respecting liberal democracy, would ever give in.”

The Australian Prime Minister said the situation demonstrates that no one can be complacent in the Indo-Pacific.

“They have every right to be where they are. We knew they were there and they are, they can be there under international maritime law, ”Morrison said. “But don’t think for a second that we weren’t keeping an eye on them because they were looking out for us. What this shows is that now no one can be complacent about the situation in the Indo-Pacific. “

australia The telegraph of the day reported Friday that the ship was seen circling the Australian coast for three weeks in August and September, and sources informed the newspaper that the ship entered Australia’s EEZ 200 kilometers off the coast of Darwin in August before heading slowly south, skirting the coast and surveying a number of crucial military training areas as it traveled as far south as Sydney. The surveillance vessel then crossed the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand. In response to questions from the media on the matter, the Australian Department of Defense provided a photo of the vessel in question, identifying it as the Yuhengxing.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton on Friday criticized China in a speech to the National Press Club of Australia, saying that while the Chinese government says it will work with other countries to maintain freedom of navigation and safe sea routes, and settling peaceful territorial disputes through dialogue and consultation, what really happens is different.

“And yet, we are witnessing an important disconnect between words and deeds, between rhetoric and reality. Along with the peoples of the Indo-Pacific and the world, Australians have watched the Chinese government engage in increasingly alarming activities, ”said Dutton.

Among the examples given by Dutton of such activities include the occupation, fabrication and militarization of elements disputed to establish 20 outposts in the South China Sea, the rejection of the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 on historic claims of rights in the South China Sea, the dispatch of an increasing number of military planes to the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, the use of crewed fishing vessels by militias to break into the Philippine EEZ and escalating tensions on China’s border with India and in the East China Sea with Japan.

The Australian Defense Minister said China was using its growing power in the areas of security, trade and economics, media and the internet to force China to comply and noted that China had also rapidly increased the size and capabilities of its army. China now has the world’s largest navy with some 355 ships and submarines, a naval combat force that has more than tripled in size in two decades. He pointed out that on average over the past four years, China has built new warships equivalent in tonnage to the entire Royal Australian Navy fleet every 18 months and that by 2030, the Chinese navy is expected to number some 460 ships.

Chinese troops patrolling have challenged their retention in the Spratly Islands. Photo via Reuters

Dutton added that China also had two other fleets subordinate to its armed forces – a coast guard that doubled from 60 to 130 1,000-ton ships in about a decade and a maritime militia that regularly has 300 ships operating in the Spratly Islands at any time. daytime. He also noted that the Chinese coastguard alone has the capabilities and maintains an operational tempo comparable to that of some Southeast Asian navies.

He said nations were looking to bolster their defense capabilities in the face of aggression and that Australia planned to complement its defense capabilities with strong relationships, such as partnerships with like-minded countries that want peace in the region. indo-pacific.

Dutton also pointed out that the technology-sharing agreement between Australia, the UK and the US – known as AUKUS – is not a partnership trying to impose a program on people. other countries in the region.

Rather, it complements a wider network of partnerships – such as ASEAN, the Five Eyes, the Five Power Defense Arrangements, the Quad and other like-minded arrangements – that are committed to promoting sovereignty, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific, ”says Dutton.

The Chinese Embassy in Australia issued a shore statement in response to Dutton’s speech.

“In his address to the AFN, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton continued to preach his chimerical misunderstanding of China’s foreign policy, distorting China’s efforts to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity, leading to mistaking the Australian people on regional situations and priorities, and stoking conflict and division between peoples and nations. “Said the Chinese Embassy. “It is inconceivable that Sino-Australian relations will gain momentum or that the general interest of countries in the region, including that of Australia, will be better promoted if the Australian government bases its national strategy on such a lacking analysis. of vision and an outdated mindset. “

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense at a press conference on Thursday said China attaches great importance to the development of relations between the US and Chinese military and is willing to maintain exchanges and cooperation with the United States.

Colonel Wu Qian noted that “for a while the United States has said a lot of irresponsible things and done a lot of provocative things about Taiwan, the South China Sea and the arrival of warships and planes from recognition, etc. for which China must naturally fight tit for tat and resolutely. We have repeatedly said that China has principles for the development of relations between the two armies, that is, China’s sovereignty, dignity and fundamental interests cannot be violated. Especially on the question of Taiwan, China has no room for compromise and the United States should not be deluded. “

USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) sails near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea July 14, 2020. U.S. Navy photo

When asked to comment on remarks by US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro that China is a primary threat and US media reports on China’s construction of targets resembling US Navy ships, Colonel Wu said, “People who are addicted to hegemony and want others to covet their hegemony. For a long time, some people in the United States have been immersed in “persecution delusions” and cannot escape, insisting on fabricating a non-existent “Chinese military threat”. Their goal is nothing more than to find excuses to seek absolute superiority in the military realm and maintain world hegemony. The Chinese military has always opposed such characterizations, he added, and that regarding “the so-called issue of missile targets, we ask the United States to give serious thought to themselves before blaming China “.

USNI News reported earlier this month that China appears to be building missile targets shaped like US aircraft carriers and other US warships in the Taklamakan Desert.

As for the underwater collision involving the USS Connecticut (SSN-22), which struck an unidentified seamount in early October in the South China Sea, Col. Wu said the United States needed to clarify three issues – namely what the intention of the navigation was of the submarine in the area, where was the specific location of the incident and whether the accident caused nuclear leaks and pollution of the marine environment. He said China believed the root cause of the crash was the large-scale, high-frequency approach, reconnaissance, interference, provocation and military activities of US warships in the Asia region. Pacific, and the militarization and hegemony of southern shipping. China Sea.

“We call on the United States to immediately stop such activities,” he said.

After the incident, a US Navy spokesperson said in October that the submarine’s nuclear power plant was not damaged in the collision.

“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition. USS Connecticut nuclear propulsion and space have not been affected and remain fully operational. The extent of the damage to the rest of the submarine is being assessed. The US Navy did not request assistance. The incident will be investigated, ”US Pacific Fleet spokesman Bill Clinton said in a statement at the time.


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