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Australia says China's conduct in airspace 'unacceptable'

May 7, 2024

The Australian prime minister said a Chinese fighter jet deployed flares in the pathway of an Australian naval helicopter while on a routine flight in the Yellow Sea.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Australian PM Anthony Albanese said that he has raised his concerns through diplomatic channels following the encounter in international airspaceImage: Mick Tsikas/AAP/dpa/picture alliance

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday accused China of risking Australian defense personnel safety in international airspace as they took part in a routine operation to enforce UN sanctions on North Korea.

Following reports of a confrontation between a Chinese fighter jet and an Australian helicopter over international waters, Albanese said Beijing's conduct was "unacceptable."

"We've just made it very clear to China that this is unprofessional and that it's unacceptable," Albanese told Australian news channel Nine Network television.

 "I think the Australian public would expect some form of explanation about how this could occur."

What Australian officials have said

Australia's defense minister, Richard Marles, said Monday that a Chinese fighter jet released flares in the flight path of an Australian navy helicopter that had been deployed from Hobart.

Marles said the flares were 300 meters (986 feet) in front of the helicopter and 60 meters (197 feet) above it and the Australian Seahawk helicopter pilot had to "take evasive action in order to not be hit by those flares."

"The consequence of being hit by the flares would have been significant," Marles said.

"We will not be deterred from engaging in lawful activities and activities which are there to enforce UN sanctions in respect of North Korea," Marles added.

There were no reports of damage or harm.

Sino-Australian relations

Albanese in his interview said that following the incident he had raised his concerns through diplomatic channels but China had not yet responded.

This was the most serious encounter between the two countries since Australia accused a Chinese naval vessel of injuring Australian Navy divers in Japanese waters in November.

There has been growing rapprochement between the two countries following years of troubled relations.

mfi/kb (AP, AFP, Reuters)