CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s defense minister said on Friday that a Chinese warship with spy capabilities was cuddling the west coastline, a “aggressive action”.
Minister Peter Dutton said the vessel was seen heading about 250 nautical miles north of Broome, Western Australia on Friday morning and had been tracking along the coastline for the past week.
“Of course the intent is to gather information along the coastline,” Dutton said. “Very close to military and intelligence facilities on Australia’s west coast.”
He said it was unprecedented for a Chinese warship to go so far south and that authorities were closely monitoring the ships with planes and surveillance technology. He said he wanted to be open and honest with Australians about the situation.
“I think it’s an aggressive move, especially because we’ve come down south,” Dutton said.
Tensions between China and Australia are escalating after China recently signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.
Australians will go to the polling place in eight days to vote in the general election. Dutton said the timing of his announcement had nothing to do with the campaign.
The Australian Department of Defense has identified the vessel as a Dongdiao Class Auxiliary Intelligence vessel named Haiwangxing.
“Australia respects the right of all countries to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “The Department of Defense will continue to monitor the operation of the vessel in our maritime approach.”