The fighter then released a “bundle of straw”, which consisted of small pieces of aluminum. Some of that straw entered the engine of the surveillance aircraft.
“Quite frankly, it’s very dangerous,” Marles said.
The Defense Minister said the crew responded professionally and returned the aircraft to base and all the crew were not harmed. He has directed the head of the defense force and the department to express concern to the Chinese authorities over the incident, particularly with emphasis on endangering the safety of the aircraft and crew.
“P-8’s activity is part of maritime surveillance activity that has been carried out by Australia in the South China Sea for decades – other countries do the same,” Marles said.
“I would also like to clarify that this incident will not prevent Australia from engaging in activities that are within our rights and within international law to ensure that there is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as it fundamentally It is in the interest of our country.”
The defense said Australia has conducted maritime surveillance in the region for decades and abides by international law, “exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace”.
The incident comes three months after a Chinese naval vessel targeted a military-grade laser at another Australian surveillance aircraft in the Arafura Sea between the Northern Territory and Papua.
The February incident put the lives of the aircraft crew at risk, with the defense strongly condemning “unprofessional and unsafe military conduct”.
Then-prime minister Scott Morrison said he sought an answer from Beijing on the “intimidation act”, but China’s foreign ministry hit back, saying Australia was spreading “malicious” false information.
This week Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded his tour of the Pacific ending in East Timor and Papua New Guinea after signing bilateral agreements with countries including the Solomon Islands.
Speaking to media, including the ABC in PNG, Wang said a reset in Sino-Australian relations would require concerted action.
,[Our] Australia’s relations have been in trouble in recent years. The crux of the problem lies in the fact that some political forces in Australia insist on treating China as an adversary rather than a partner, and portraying China’s development as a threat rather than an opportunity,” he said. .
“Such moves constitute a significant reversal of Australia’s positive and pragmatic China policy that has been in place for many years.”