A visiting Chinese official on Tuesday (28/11) warned Australia to act with “extreme caution” in deploying its warships in the South China Sea following recent confrontations between the two countries’ navies.
Liu Jianchao, the Chinese Communist Party’s top international affairs official, made the warning while speaking at a Sydney university on a trip aimed at paving the way for President Xi Jinping’s visit to Australia, which is expected to take place next year.
Bilateral relations have improved recently, but suffered a setback when Australia accused the Chinese destroyer CNS Ningbo of injuring a number of Royal Australian Navy divers with sonar waves in Japanese waters on November 14. Australia says China ignored safety warnings to stay away from the Australian frigate HMAS Toowoomba.
Liu reiterated China’s position that the incident occurred outside Japanese territorial waters and that the Chinese warships posed no danger.
“We urge the Australian government as well as its military to act with extreme caution in this regard,” Liu said at the University of Technology Sydney.
“Such a small incident can become bigger if not handled well,” he added.
FILE: Australian Navy ship Toowoomba docks at Changi Naval Base at the IMDEX Asia 2023 warship exhibition in Singapore, May 4, 2023. (REUTERS/Caroline Chia)
Toowoomba reportedly took action that further angered Beijing by crossing southward from Japan through the disputed Taiwan Strait last week.
Liu said that through this maneuver Australia seemed to be making a statement that they were trying to contain China.
The US, Canadian and Australian militaries have repeatedly complained about what they say are dangerous actions by China’s navy and air force in the western Pacific. Analysts fear a collision or other accident could trigger an international incident and escalate into conflict.
Liu’s visit comes after Anthony Albanese recently became the first Australian prime minister to visit China in seven years. (ab/uh)