Chinese plane intercepts RAAF plane over South China Sea: defense

A Chinese military fighter jet carried out a “dangerous manoeuvre” near an RAAF plane, putting the Australian crew at risk.

A Chinese military fighter jet flew dangerously close to an RAAF plane over the South China Sea and threatened the safety of the Australian plane’s crew.

Defense Minister Richard Marles said the Australian government had raised concerns with Beijing over the “very dangerous” mid-air incident, which took place in international airspace on May 26 .

Mr Marles said the RAAF’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft was carrying out routine maritime surveillance when it was intercepted by a Chinese J-16 fighter jet in a “dangerous manoeuvre”.

“What happened was that the J-16 plane flew very close to the side of the P-8 maritime surveillance plane,” Mr Marles told reporters in Geelong.

“Flying close to the side it set off flares, the J-16 then accelerated and clipped the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at a very close distance.

“At this time he then released a chaff packet containing small pieces of aluminum, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.”

Mr Marles said the RAAF crew were unharmed and responded professionally and returned the aircraft to base after the incident.

He ordered the Ministry of Defense and the Australian Defense Force chief to express their concerns about the incident to the Chinese authorities, in the Labor government’s first contact with the Chinese military since taking office.

Mr Marles said policing the South China Sea was in Australia’s national interest and “fully within our rights under international law”.

“It’s a body of water that’s deeply connected to Australia because of our trade that passes through it,” he said.

“We have made representations to the Chinese government, but we will not be deterred from engaging in activities to which we are entitled under international law in the future.”

Mr Marles claimed China’s broader actions in the region were “inconsistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

The Defense said Australian aircraft had for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region in accordance with international law, “exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace”.

Anthony Albanese, speaking ahead of his three-day diplomatic trip to Indonesia, said the federal government was concerned.

“We are concerned about this incident,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Perth on Sunday.

“It was unclear what happened, and we made appropriate representations to the Chinese government to express our concern about it.

The incident comes after a Chinese navy ship pointed a military-grade laser at another mid-air Australian surveillance plane in February.

The already strained relationship between Canberra and Beijing has deteriorated further this year due to concerns over China’s military expansion in the Pacific.

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