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

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine looks through binoculars aboard China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, visiting a military port on the South China Sea. Xinhua photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Chinese naval vessels have every right to operate in Australia’s exclusive economic zone, just as Australia and other countries have the right to freedom of movement in the South China Sea, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday.

During a press conference in South Australia today, Morrison was asked about reports that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surveillance vessel Yuhengxing (798) was monitoring three weeks off Australia in August and September.

“You 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 liberal democratic countries have every right to freedom of movement in the South China Sea. Our movements in the South China Sea and elsewhere pose a challenge to Australia, ”said Morrison.

Morrison went on to say that because Australia has stood up for its right to stay in the South China Sea, stresses freedom of expression and press, and is building its defense capabilities – including building nuclear submarines – China has taken up issues with Australia and the two nations have a strained relationship. Morrison added, however, that these problems “are not problems that a self-respecting government like Australia’s, or indeed any self-respecting liberal democracy, would ever give in”.

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

“You have the right to be where you are. We knew they were there and they are, they can be there under international maritime law, ”said Morrison. “But don’t think for a second that we didn’t keep an eye on them because they wanted to keep an eye on us. What it shows is that now nobody can be satisfied with the situation in the Indo-Pacific. “

The Australian Daily Telegraph reported Friday that the ship orbited Australia’s coast for three weeks in August and September and that sources had told the newspaper that the ship entered Australia’s 200-kilometer EEZ off the coast of Darwin in August before it did drove slowly south. She nestled against the coast and monitored a number of important military training areas on their way to Sydney. The surveillance vessel then sailed across the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand. In response to media inquiries regarding the matter, the Australian Department of Defense provided a photo of the ship in question, which it identified as a Yuhengxing.

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

“And yet we witness a clear gap between words and deeds, between rhetoric and reality. Australians, along with the peoples of the Indo-Pacific and the world, have watched the Chinese government engage in increasingly alarming activities, “Dutton said.

Examples Dutton cited of such activities included the occupation, manufacture and militarization of controversial features to establish 20 outposts in the South China Sea, the rejection of the 2016 Judgment of the Permanent Court of The Hague on claims to historical rights in the South China Sea, posting increasing numbers of military jets in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, use of militia-manned fishing vessels to enter the Philippines’ 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 increasing power in security, trade and economy, media and internet to enforce compliance, noting that China was also rapidly expanding the size and capabilities of its military. With around 355 ships and submarines, China now has the largest navy in the world, a naval force that has more than tripled in two decades. He noted that China has built new naval ships every 18 months on average for the past four years, the equivalent of the entire fleet of the Royal Australian Navy, and that China’s navy is expected to number around 460 ships by 2030.

Chinese troops patrol the Spratly Islands to resolve disputes. Photo via Reuters

Dutton added that China is also under two other fleets under its armed forces – a Coast Guard, which has doubled from 60 to 130 1,000-ton ships in about a decade, and a maritime militia that routinely operates 300 ships on the Spratly- Islands in use has day. He also noted that the Chinese Coast Guard alone has capabilities and is maintaining a pace of operation comparable to that of some Southeast Asian navies.

He said nations seek to strengthen their defense capabilities when facing aggression and that Australia plans to complement its defense capabilities with strong relationships, such as partnerships with like-minded countries that want peace in the Indo-Pacific region.

Dutton also pointed out that the technology exchange agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – known as AUKUS – is not a partnership trying to impose an agenda on other countries in the region.

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

The Chinese embassy in Australia issued a statement ashore in response to Dutton’s speech.

“In his NPC speech, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton continued to preach his quixotic misunderstanding of Chinese foreign policy, distorted China’s efforts to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity, misled the Australian people about regional situations and priorities, and fueled conflicts and divisions between peoples and nations” said the Chinese embassy. “It is inconceivable that China-Australia relations could develop well or better serve the general interest of regional countries, including Australia, with the Australian government basing its national strategy on such a visionless analysis and outdated mentality.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry said during a news conference Thursday that China attaches great importance to developing relations between the US and Chinese military and stands ready to maintain exchanges and cooperation with the US

Colonel Wu Qian noted that “the United States has said many irresponsible things and done many provocative things about Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the arrival of reconnaissance warships and planes, and so on, for a while. for which China must of course fight excessively and resolutely. We have often said that China has principles for developing relations between the two militaries, that is, that China’s sovereignty, dignity and core interests must not be violated. China has no room for compromise, especially on the Taiwan question, and the US should have no illusions. “

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

When asked to comment on U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro’s remarks that China was a major threat and U.S. media reports of China building targets resembling U.S. Navy ships, Col. Wu said others were theirs Desire hegemony. Some people in the United States have long been mired in “paranoia” and cannot free themselves by insisting on fabricating a non-existent “Chinese military threat”. Their purpose is nothing more than to find excuses for themselves to seek absolute superiority in the military arena and to maintain global hegemony. “The Chinese military has always spoken out against such characterizations, he added, and with regard to” that so-called missile target problem, we ask the US to think seriously about itself before blaming China ”.

USNI News reported earlier this month that China is apparently building missile targets in the form of US aircraft carriers and other American warships in the Taklamakan Desert.

Regarding the underwater collision of the USS Connecticut (SSN-22), which struck an unidentified seamount in the South China Sea in early October, Col. Wu said the U.S. needed to clarify three questions – namely, what was the intent of the submarine navigating in ? the area where the specific location of the incident was and whether the accident caused nuclear leaks and marine pollution. He said China believes the main cause of the accident was the large-scale radio frequency approach, reconnaissance, interference, provocation and military activities by US warships in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the militarization and navigational hegemony of the South China Sea.

“We ask the US to stop such activities immediately,” he said.

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

“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition. The USS Connecticut nuclear power plant and rooms were not affected and remain fully functional. The extent of the damage to the rest of the submarine is assessed. The US Navy has not requested any help. The incident is being investigated, “said Bill Clinton, spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet.

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