ADF chief hits back at China’s chopper intercept spying claim

ADF chief hits back at China’s chopper intercept spying claim

Australia’s defence chief has rejected Beijing’s claim that a Navy helicopter targeted by a Chinese military jet with flares was spying.

The near-catastrophic incident in the Yellow Sea off South Korea on Saturday has caused tension between Australia and its biggest trading partner. 

Australian Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell said the Seahawk helicopter launched off HMAS Hobart and it was operating appropriately.

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“The helicopter was behaving in a correct and disciplined fashion and I don’t accept that the response was anything but unsafe and unprofessional,” he said on Thursday.

HMAS Hobart was in the area as part of a United Nations mission to enforce trade sanctions against North Korea.

China had initially claimed the helicopter “deliberately approached China’s airspace to cause trouble and provocation, endangering China’s maritime and air security”.

“As a warning, the Chinese military took necessary measures at the scene. Relevant operations are legal, compliant, professional and safe,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said at a regular briefing on Tuesday.

Later that same day, China’s Defence Ministry changed its tune, accusing Australia of using the helicopter to “conduct close-in reconnaissance and disturb the normal training activities of the Chinese side”

“We urge the Australian side to truly respect China’s sovereignty and security concerns, cease spreading false narratives, strictly constrain the operations of its naval and air forces, stop all dangerous provocations, and avoid undermining the overall relationship between the two countries and the two militaries,” ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Zhang Xiaogang said.

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Defence Minister Richard Marles told 9News earlier in the week that the People’s Liberation Army J10 warplane dropped flares about 300 metres in front of the Seahawk helicopter and about 60 metres above it, forcing the helicopter pilot to take evasive action in order to not be hit.

“This was an unsafe manoeuvre which posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the action as “completely unacceptable”.

The Seahawk normally operates with a crew of four to six. No one was injured during the interception.

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