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Australia says its navy divers were likely injured by the Chinese navy’s ‘unsafe’ use of sonar

by Michael Nguyen
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Australia-China Naval Tension

Australia has formally leveled accusations against the Chinese navy, suggesting that the latter’s use of sonar likely resulted in minor injuries to Australian divers. This incident occurred during a mission to disentangle fishing nets from the propellers of an Australian naval vessel. The Australian Defense Minister, Richard Marles, conveyed the government’s grave concerns about these actions, which he deemed unsafe and unprofessional, to the Chinese authorities, according to his statement published online.

To date, there has been no response from China regarding this matter. The incident adds to a series of grievances that the United States, Canada, and Australia have previously raised about the perceived hazardous practices of the Chinese navy and air force in the western Pacific. Experts are increasingly worried that such incidents could potentially trigger a significant international dispute or even escalate into a larger conflict.

The issue arose when the Australian naval frigate HMAS Toowoomba, which was part of a mission to enforce U.N. sanctions, halted in international waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. This was due to its propellers getting entangled with fishing nets. Amidst the ongoing diving operations for clearing these nets, a Chinese destroyer approached and used its hull-mounted sonar in a manner deemed dangerous for the Australian divers, forcing them to abandon their task.

The statement further noted that the divers sustained minor injuries, presumably as a consequence of exposure to the sonar emissions from the Chinese vessel. Sonar, which operates by emitting sound waves to create underwater images, can lead to various health issues such as dizziness and hearing damage when used at high intensities.

Australian Senator James Paterson, from the opposition Liberal Party, highlighted the timing of this incident, occurring shortly after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s trip to Beijing aimed at improving Sino-Australian relations. Paterson criticized the conflicting nature of China’s actions, which on one hand, seem to indicate a desire for improved relations with Australia, but on the other, involve risky maneuvers endangering Australian personnel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Australia-China Naval Tension

What was the incident involving Australia and China’s navies?

Australian navy divers were likely injured due to the Chinese navy’s use of sonar, leading to accusations from Australia of unsafe and unprofessional conduct.

What actions did Australia take following the sonar incident?

The Australian government expressed serious concerns to China and publicly condemned the incident as unsafe and unprofessional.

Where did the Australia-China naval incident occur?

The incident occurred in international waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

What were the consequences of the sonar use by the Chinese navy?

Australian divers sustained minor injuries, believed to be caused by the sonar pulses from the Chinese destroyer.

Has there been a response from China regarding the incident?

As of the report, there was no immediate comment from the Chinese side regarding the incident.

What broader concerns does this incident raise?

The incident adds to ongoing tensions and concerns about dangerous practices by the Chinese navy in the western Pacific, potentially escalating into international conflict.

More about Australia-China Naval Tension

  • Australian Government’s Official Statement
  • Analysis of Australia-China Naval Tensions
  • Health Effects of Sonar Exposure
  • International Maritime Safety Regulations
  • Overview of UN Sanctions Enforcement Operations

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