Australia says Chinese spy ship does not violate the law of the sea According to Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) intelligence-gathering vessel Haiwangxing is pictured operating near the coast of Australia in this image released May 13, 2022. Australian room / REUTERS / File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A Chinese intelligence vessel tracking off Australia’s west coast within 50 nautical miles of a sensitive defense facility did not violate international maritime law, Australia said on Saturday. .

Australia has been tracking the spy ship for the past week as it passed the Harold E Holt naval communications station in Exmouth, Western Australia, which is used by Australian, US and allied submarines.

Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that the Chinese naval vessel was not in Australian territorial waters but its presence was “disturbing”, amid the election campaign that China’s behavior in the region is central.

The question of the national security threat posed by China, including the expansion of its influence in the Pacific, is a key theme of the campaign for the May 21 general election. .

Asked on Saturday whether the ship’s behavior was a “red line”, Morrison said freedom of navigation is allowed around the world and that the ship did not violate maritime law.

“The international law of the sea is not violated,” he told reporters on the campaign trail in Melbourne. However, he said the issue highlights the challenges Australia faces from China “seeking to impose its will across the region”.

China’s embassy in Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Morrison’s comments came after Defense Secretary Peter Dutton said this week that he considered the ship’s move “an act of aggression” for having traveled so far south.

Opposition Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese on Saturday said he shared the government’s concerns about the ship and had sought a briefing.

Relations between Australia and China, major trading partners, have been strained recently due to China’s growing influence in the Solomon Islands, after the small Pacific island nation signed a security pact with China.

Chinese naval vessels have been tracked off the north and east coasts of Australia several times in recent years. It was the same Chinese ship that watched the Australian navy’s exercises with US troops off the east coast last year.

In February, China and Australia bitterly argued over an incident in which Australia said one of its maritime patrol planes detected a laser directed at itself from an Army Navy ship. People’s Liberation.

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