Prime Minister Antony Albanese blasted a Chinese warship for its “dangerous, unsafe and unprofessional” after a clash with an Australian vessel left one person injured.
The PM, however, refused to confirm whether he raised the issue with China’s President Xi Jinping at the APEC Summit in San Francisco last week.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Saturday that several Australian divers from the HMAS Toowoomba were injured when they were hit by sonar pulses emitted from a Chinese warship in international waters off the coast of Japan on Tuesday.
Albanese told Sky News today that he is “very concerned” about the incident but that only one person suffered injuries.
He said: “This is the sort of incident I’ve spoken about…why we need communication and guard rails, and we need to avoid reckless events like this. This is why we’ve made our strong objections to China.
“This is one of those times we disagree with China…this sort of event should not occur.”
Albanese met with China’s President Xi Jinping at the APEC Summit in San Francisco last week but when pressed whether he had confronted Xi about the incident he refused to comment several times.
He said: “I can assure you, we raised these issues in the appropriate way and very clearly, unequivocally. China is in no misunderstanding on Australia’s view on this.”
The Toowoomba deployed divers on Tuesday to remove fishing nets that had become caught in the ship’s propellers when a nearby Chinese warship approached while using its hull-mounted sonar.
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Divers suffered minor injuries, likely due to active sonar pulses, according to the Australian Defence Ministry.
The news comes amid a series of close calls as China becomes more assertive in the region. In recent weeks Chinese aircraft have flown dangerously close to US and Canadian aircraft in the South China Sea and near Taiwan.
Joe Biden said that one of the main goals of a meeting with Xi Jinping at the APEC Summit last week was to reopen military communication between China and the US to prevent any incident from escalating into conflict.
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