Australia and China trade barbs over laser incident

February 22, 2022

Australia and China trade barbs over laser incident

While most of the foreign policy community is focused on what is happening in Ukraine with Russia, another conflict is brewing between Australia and China.

An alleged laser incident at sea has Australia and China on edge again. Australia demanded on Monday some clarifications over the alleged use of a laser by a Chinese vessel to illuminate an Australian maritime patrol aircraft.

Scott Morrison slams reckless China behavior during laser incident

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the move reckless and dangerous. The political leader went as far as talking about bullying.

For Morrison, China needs to address the whole thing for the sake of all of the countries in the region. The incident occurred on Thursday, February 17.

The Australian Defence Department called the illumination of the plane a serious safety incident. Some in the aviation industry agree that lasers can be problematic for pilots and planes. They can damage someone’s sight and have dramatic consequences.

Australia is adamant that it handled the tense moment the proper way. It even admitted to dropping sonobuoys, which help detect submarines.

Morrison said the devices did not put the Chinese ship in danger.

China accuses Australia of hyping the situation

After taking a few days to address criticism from their Australian counterparts, Chinese officials quickly attempted to shift the blame.

A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said the Communist country did not infringe on international laws. China has also accused Australia of manufacturing the crisis and lying about the incident.

Spokesman Wang Wenbin then urged Australia to respect the rights of Chinese vessels. The Chinese media also pushed the angle that Australia was trying to damage Beijing’s reputation on the international stage.

China has not denied using the laser. The Asian nation has framed its reaction by what is allowed via international norms.

Moreover, China claims that the aircraft got very close to the vessel, and the situation supposedly demanded a response. China called the display provocative and dangerous.

It is not the first time something like this has happened in the region. Experts even predict it might occur again in the future.

Tensions between China and Australia are on the rise

In May 2019, Australian pilots claimed lasers targeted them during missions over the South China Sea. Between 2017 and 2018, US officials noted close to 20 laser incidents involving China.

Tensions between China and Australia have been rising in recent years as Beijing tries to expand its influence in the pacific region.

The countries went at it in November after Australia signed a significant deal with the United States and the United Kingdom to purchase nuclear-powered submarines.

China was not pleased with the move and asked Australia to reevaluate the relationship between the two countries. On Tuesday, Australia announced that it is moving forward with a major investment in drones for surveillance purposes.

Australia wants to turn its attention to Antarctica. Canberra is claiming 42 percent of the ice-covered landmass. Beijing has shown a lot of interest in exploiting Antarctica’s resources.

If not handled properly, this issue could become a new source of disagreement between the two countries.

China, just like Russia, seems determined to play by its own rules. There is not much that Australia and the rest of the Western alliance can do about it.

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