Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Australia’s Defense Minister Denounces China Over Aerial Confrontation

Published: May 7, 2024
Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force CH-47 helicopter carries a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) during a joint military drill among Japan, the US, Britain and Australia at Narashino exercise field in Funabashi of Chiba prefecture on January 8, 2023. (Image: YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Australia’s defense minister Richard Marles said in a statement on May 6 (Saturday) that a fighter jet of Communist China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) endangered an Australian military helicopter, during an “unsafe” and “unacceptable” confrontation over the Yellow Sea.

An Australian MH60R Seahawk helicopter was on a routine flight in the Yellow Sea as part of an operation to enforce sanctions against North Korea, when the Chinese J-10 jet dropped flares above and several hundred meters ahead of it.

Marles strongly protested: “This is a very serious incident, it was unsafe and it is completely unacceptable.” 

“We have formally expressed our concerns about this incident, and formally expressed that this was both unsafe and unprofessional,” he added.

The helicopter, flying from destroyer HMAS Hobart, dodged the flares, but the possible impact would have been “significant” had it led to a collision. 

The Australian Department of Defence said in a separate statement the confrontation put the aircraft and people on board at risk, although no one was actually hurt.

This is the second such incident in six months, despite the two countries’ gradual rapprochement after years of strained relations and trade disputes.

In November, Australia denounced an incident in which a PLA naval vessel injured some of its divers in Japanese waters, allegedly when the ship pinged the Australian personnel with its sonar. Beijing has denied Australia’s claims about the incident.

Despite Saturday’s confrontation, HMAS Hobart continues to operate in the region, Defense Minister Marles said. Australia has been enforcing sanctions against North Korea through the use of such missions in the region since 2018.

The Chinese defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report.