Australia, China exchange barb over recent naval sonar row
China on Monday said its military is strictly disciplined and always operates professionally while responding to the Australian government's recent accusation that six navy divers were hurt due to probable sonar pulses emitted by a Chinese warship.
"The Chinese military is strictly disciplined and always operates professionally in accordance with the international law and international common practices. We hope relevant parties will stop making trouble in front of China’s doorsteps and work with China to preserve the momentum of improving and growing China-Australia ties," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said.
The Australian Government on Saturday said it expressed serious concerns to the Chinese Government following an 'unsafe and unprofessional interaction' with a People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) destroyer.
"On Tuesday 14 November 2023, HMAS Toowoomba was in international waters inside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone enroute to commence a scheduled port visit," the Australian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
HMAS Toowoomba had been in the region conducting operations in support of United Nations sanctions enforcement.
It had stopped conducting diving operations in order to clear fishing nets that had become entangled around its propellers.
"At all times, HMAS Toowoomba communicated its intention to conduct diving operations on normal maritime channels, and using internationally recognised signals," the statement said.
While diving operations were underway a PLA-N destroyer (DDG-139) operating in the vicinity closed towards HMAS Toowoomba. Toowoomba again advised the PLA-N destroyer that diving operations were being conducted and requested the ship keep clear.
"Despite acknowledging Toowoomba’s communications, the Chinese vessel approached at a closer range. Soon after, it was detected operating its hull-mounted sonar in a manner that posed a risk to the safety of the Australian divers who were forced to exit the water," read the statement.
"This is unsafe and unprofessional conduct," the ministry said.
Medical assessments conducted after the divers exited the water identified they had sustained minor injuries likely due to being subjected to the sonar pulses from the Chinese destroyer.
"The safety and well-being of our ADF personnel continues to be of our utmost priority," the Ministry said.
The Australian Defence Ministry said it expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner.