‘Reckless’ Chinese navy injured Australian divers, says Albanese
Josh Butler Canberra
The Australian prime minister has accused a Chinese naval ship of “dangerous, unsafe and unprofessional” behaviour after an altercation caused injuries to divers from an Australian vessel. Anthony Albanese declined to confirm whether he had raised the issue face-to-face with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at the AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit last week, saying only that his government had complained through “all the forums that are available”. The Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, said on Saturday that several divers from HMAS Toowoomba had sustained injuries from sonar pulses emitted by a Chinese warship in international waters off Japan last Tuesday. Albanese said in an interview with Sky News: “This is the sort of incident I’ve spoken about … why we need communication and guard rails, and we need to avoid reckless events like this. This is why we’ve made our strong objections to China.” China’s defence ministry yesterday said Albanese’s remarks were “completely inconsistent with the facts”, adding: “China kept a safe distance from the Australian ship.” Albanese said on Thursday that he had met Xi at the Apec summit in San Francisco. The maritime incident had occurred two days earlier but was not made public until Saturday. Yesterday the prime minister declined to confirm whether he had raised the incident with Xi. “I can assure you, we raised these issues in the appropriate way and very clearly, unequivocally. China is in no misunderstanding on Australia’s view on this,” Albanese told Sky. Australia’s home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, would not say directly whether Albanese had raised the issue with Xi, saying only that “the matter has been handled through the appropriate channels”. “The Australian government has taken a strong stance against what is a very unacceptable incident that has put at risk people who signed up to defend our country in uniform. We take that incredibly seriously,” she said. The deputy leader of the opposition Liberal party, Sussan Ley, criticised the government’s response. “‘Cooperate where we can, disagree where we must’ should never mean stagemanaging CCP aggression that injures our ADF [Australian Defence Force] personnel,” she wrote, referencing Albanese’s common refrain on his stance towards China.