Seahawk helicopter lands on HMAS Hobart
Flares were dropped about 300m in front of an Australian Seahawk chopper by a Chinese jet fighter. Image by AP PHOTO
  • defence

‘Stop provocations’:China warns Australia over incident

May 7, 2024

China has accused Australia’s military of provocative and threatening behaviour after a dangerous incident in international waters.

An Australian Navy Seahawk helicopter was forced to take evasive action to prevent being hit by flares launched by a J-10 Chinese Air Force plane on Saturday evening, according to Defence Minister Richard Marles.

The flares were dropped about 300 metres in front of the chopper and about 60 metres above it but the helicopter was unaffected and all the crew were safe.

The Australian government has condemned the action, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling it incredibly dangerous.

However China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said the military had taken the necessary steps to warn Australia.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lin Jian
 Lin Jian claims the Australian chopper flew in a deliberately provocative manner. Image by EPA PHOTO 

“The Australian military aircraft flew near China airspace in a threatening way,” he said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

“What truly happened was that an Australian military aircraft deliberately flew within close range of China’s airspace in a provocative move which endangered China’s maritime air security.

“We urge Australia to stop provocations to prevent misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

China’s military was expected to act in a safe and professional manner, US Assistant Under Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink said.

“We were deeply concerned to see reports of this incident, obviously, we stand with our Australian allies,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Daniel J. Kritenbrink
 Daniel Kritenbrink says the incident won’t stop US manoeuvres in international waters. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

The US would continue to fly over and sail in international waters despite the incident.

The appropriate diplomatic representations had been made to Beijing through all channels available to his government, including defence-to-defence, Mr Albanese said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton condemned the helicopter incident as provocative, dangerous and unnecessary.

“An Australian Defence Force member or members are going to lose their lives at some point because there will be an error in judgment by one of the fighter pilots or one of the naval personnel from the China side,” he said.

The Australian aircraft was on a routine flight and operating from HMAS Hobart as part of an international effort to enforce UN sanctions on North Korea when the incident took place about 7.30pm. 

The episode was incredibly dangerous for those on board the helicopter because it could have ingested the flares, shutting down its engine, Australian National University National Security College security expert Jennifer Parker said.

“We could have seen the helicopter need to ditch, potential injuries, or loss of life,” she told ABC radio.

“So this isn’t normal by any stretch of the imagination.”

In November, Australian navy divers from HMAS Toowoomba were injured after a Chinese warship issued sonar pulses.