Australian ships confronted by Chinese Navy in South China Sea
Australian ships are currently conducting exercises with the US and Japanese Navies.
An Australian Defence Force joint task group comprising five warships, last week travelled through the disputed waterways, close to the Spratly Islands, which China claims as its own.
The Chinese Navy confronted Australian warships in the South China Sea during this voyage that saw the Australian Ships sail close to contested islands claimed by Beijing.
It is understood the Australian warships did not come within 12 nautical miles of the contested islands, unlike American warships, which have recently conducted freedom of navigation exercises to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims.
In a statement, the Australian Defence Ministry said all “unplanned interactions with foreign warships throughout the deployment were conducted in a safe and professional manner”.
The Australian warships, led by HMAS Canberra, were transiting through the increasingly tense region as they made their way to the Philippine Sea for exercises with US and Japanese Navy.
Soon HMAS Canberra, HMAS Hobart, HMAS Stuart, HMAS Arunta and HMAS Sirius will arrive in Hawaii for larger military war games known as RIMPAC.
China’s warships have been keeping a close eye on vessels in the South China Sea.
“Australia is committed to a secure, open, prosperous and resilient Indo-Pacific region. We routinely work with regional partners to address shared security challenges,” a Defence spokesperson said.
“Activities conducted during this routine deployment are part of the Australian Defence Force’s regular military-to-military engagements throughout the Indo-Pacific, which are conducted each year.
The ships were en route to exercises with the US and Japanese navies.
Air Commodore Owen says the confrontation was ‘friendly’.
Earlier also HMAS Canberra had led a Australian Task Group commanded by Air Commodore Owen and made two transits through the South China Sea, where the Chinese military kept a close eye on the international visitors passing through the contested waters.
Commodore Owen said he had “no extra worries” about the interaction with the Chinese military.
The Australians were closely tailed by the Chinese navy earlier this month as they made their way towards Vietnam, and as the Task Group departed Cam Ranh port.
“We were sensitive to all navy interactions, we train for that, we’re aware of how they will behave and how we behave, so I had no extra worries about it at all, I was confident in the capabilities of the Royal Australian Navy and the ADF,” Commodore Owen said.
“They’ll want to know who we are, where we’re going and what our intentions are, and the Chinese were no different — they were friendYly, they were professional.”
Last year the ABC revealed three Australian Warships were also challanged by the Chinese Military as they made their way to Vietnam for a three-day goodwill visit in Ho Chi Minh city.
During this year’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour mission, HMAS Canberra was joined by HMAS Success, HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Parramatta, as well as embarked MH-60R maritime combat helicopters and MRH-90 maritime support helicopters.