Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused China of shining a laser at one of its surveillance planes, referring to the incident as an “act of intimidation”.
Morrison told media on Monday that his government had not received an explanation from China over the incident that took place on February 17, which Australia considered “dangerous and reckless”.
He called for a full investigation from China.
The Australian defence department said the laser, originating from a Chinese naval vessel, had “the potential to endanger lives”.
“I think the Chinese government is hoping that nobody talks about these aggressive bullying acts,” Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday, calling the incident “very aggressive”.
Beijing dismissed the allegations as “not true” and defended the Chinese ship’s movements as “normal navigation … in line with relevant international law”.
A spokesman for China’s defence ministry also claimed an Australian P-8 patrol aircraft had come within 4km (2.5 miles) of the vessel and engaged in “malicious provocations” that “posed a threat” to safety.
“We urge Australia to respect the legitimate rights of Chinese ships in relevant sea areas in accordance with international law and stop spreading false information related to China,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing on Monday.
China had been accused in 2019 of targeting Australian aircraft using military-grade lasers over the South China Sea.
Relations between China and Australia have nosedived in recent years after Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
China responded by placing tariffs on Australian goods worth billions of dollars, dragging both countries into a protracted trade standoff.
Beijing also reacted with fury last year when Canberra joined a trilateral defence pact with the United States and the United Kingdom that would allow it to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, to counter China’s growing military might in the Asia-Pacific region.