China Accused of Endangering Australian Divers with Sonar Pulses
Australia has accused the Chinese navy of using sonar pulses during an encounter in international waters, resulting in injuries to Australian divers. Australia’s defense minister says a Chinese warship acted “unsafely and unprofessionally” during an encounter in waters near Japan earlier this week.
The reported incident occurred in Japan’s exclusive economic zone last Tuesday (November 14). Australia’s long-range frigate HMAS Toowoomba was conducting operations to support United Nations sanctions at the time, but further details about the operations were not disclosed.
According to Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, as the Chinese warship approached the Australian frigate, divers were cleaning the fishing nets on the Australian ship’s propeller. The Chinese warship then sent out dangerous sonar pulses, posing a safety risk to the Australian divers, who were forced to immediately take to the water. One diver suffered minor injuries that may have been caused by the sonar.
Marles stated, “Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their military forces in a professional and secure manner.” He also mentioned that the Toowoomba had communicated its intention to conduct diving operations in conventional sea lanes and used internationally recognized signals.
Earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a trip to China and praised “significant progress” in relations between the two Pacific powers. However, tensions remain, particularly on security matters. Australia has expressed concern about China’s increasingly assertive attitude in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Chinese government has not yet commented on the incident. This comes as Canberra has recently strengthened military ties with the United States and adjusted its defense posture to deal with potential threats from China.
Albanese’s visit to China and meeting with President Xi Jinping marked the first time an Australian leader has visited China since 2016. Despite the diplomatic efforts, the accusations against the Chinese navy highlight ongoing tensions and power struggles in the Asia-Pacific region.