One day after Biden summit, Chinese warship sonar pulses injure Australian navy divers

by WorldTribune Staff, November 19, 2023

Divers with Australia’s navy suffered ear injuries after a Chinese warship ignored warnings of the divers’ presence underwater and used its powerful sonar, officials say.

In a statement on Saturday, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, who was acting prime minister while Anthony Albanese was in San Francisco for the APEC summit, described the incident as an “unsafe and unprofessional interaction.”

The HMAS Toowoomba / Royal Australian Navy

Marles said the HMAS Toowoomba had stopped in international waters to clear fishing nets entangled around its propellers and had advised the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) destroyer that diving operations were under way and “requested the ship keep clear.”

“Despite acknowledging Toowoomba’s communications, the Chinese vessel approached at a closer range,” Marles said. “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. This is unsafe and unprofessional conduct.”

The incident occurred one day after Joe Biden met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in San Francisco.

It also occurred before Albanese’s meeting with Xi at the APEC summit, sparking questions from the Australian opposition about why the details were withheld until Saturday.

It is not known if Albanese discussed the matter with Xi. Marles said the federal government had expressed “serious concerns” to the communist government in Beijing.

Nicholas Eftimiades, a professor at Penn State University, noted of the incident in a LinkedIn post: “Amazing. Just a week after meeting with the Australian Prime Minister and a day after meeting with Biden. This aggressive behavior is a fundamental cultural flaw in the CCP. I hope foreign businesses and governments take note. This behavior will continue and impact relations.”

Australian Defense Association executive director Neil James said incidents such as this and another earlier this year when Qantas warned pilots about GPS jamming suspected to originate from warships in the South China Sea, demonstrated a potential pattern of “unnecessary and provocative behavior”.

In February 2022, a Chinese warship aimed a military-grade laser at an RAAF aircraft while sailing through Australia’s exclusive economic zone, between the Northern Territory and Papua. Three months later, a Chinese spy ship was tracked for a week off Australia’s west coast near a secretive naval communications base, in a move then-Defense Minister Peter Dutton labelled an aggressive act.

Meanwhile, during a campaign event in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Saturday, former President Donald Trump ripped into Biden, accusing him of being “owned by China” and having a “weak” foreign policy when it comes to dealing with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Trump said of the APEC summit: “This week, Crooked Joe was in San Francisco for a summit with China, looking like he had no idea where he was, what was happening, or what he was supposed to do.” He added, “Every voter needs to ask themselves, who do you want sitting across that table from President Xi, President Putin, and Chairman Kim Jong Un for the next four years? Do you want Crooked Joe Biden, or do you want President Donald J. Trump?”

Trump continued: “Since Crooked Joe took office, it has been one Biden surrender to China after another,” the former president noted. “Biden shut down the investigation into the Wuhan Lab, he canceled my program to root out Chinese spies, he weakened by China tariffs, he let China open up military bases in Cuba 90 miles off our shores, and he allowed a Chinese Spy Balloon to float across the entire United States.”

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