A Chinese WARSHIP is in Australian waters in an unprecedented ‘act of aggression’
Mr Dutton held a press conference on Friday afternoon raising the alarm about the vessel which has been tracking ‘close’ to the coast for the last week or so.
It was sighted at 0600 hrs this morning, 250 nautical miles north-west of Broome and tracking north-east at 12 knots
‘It’s strange timing and it’s without precedent a vessel would be so far south,’ Mr Dutton said. ‘It is an aggressive act. Clearly, its intention is to gather intelligence.’
The vessel’s appearance near naval communications base supporting US and allied submarines in the Indian Ocean comes eight days before the federal election.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton (pictured right with Scott Morrison) has warned a Chinese warship with spy capabilities is lurking off the coast of Western Australia
The Chinese spy ship was sighted at 0600 hrs this morning, 250 nautical miles north-west of Broome and tracking north-east at 12 knots (stock image pictured)
Mr Dutton added: ‘It’s obviously very strange that it’s come this far south, and it’s hugging the coastline as it goes north towards Darwin.
‘Its intention will be to collect as much electronic intelligence as it can – and that’s just very unusual. It does cause us concern.
‘We haven’t seen a ship from the People’s Liberation Army Navy come this far south.’
He said China had ripped up the diplomatic rule book by arriving unannounced off the coast like this.
‘There is a essentially an international protocol, which would normally include that contact to the Australian authorities which hasn’t happened,’ he said.
An intelligence source confirmed Chinese surveillance vessels have been tracking ships going in and out of the facility for years and have also been active mapping the ocean floor topography of the area (stock image pictured)
He believed the warship may be gathering vital data for underwater submarine routes in the area.
‘There’s certainly the desire for them to to look hydrographically, which is why they’re sent vessels from time to time, he said.
‘So, to look at routes for submarines, to look at coastline, facilities and and importantly, the Harold E Holt (naval communications) facility is in that area.’
The Harold E Holt Naval Communication Station near Exmouth, WA, is a top secret joint US/Australian Navy base.
An intelligence source confirmed Chinese surveillance vessels have been tracking ships going in and out of the facility for years and have also been actively mapping the ocean floor topography of the area.
The defence minister insisted that releasing the information so close to election day was not without precedent.
He added: ‘I think people understand the difficulty that’s the reality of the Indo Pacific at the moment.
‘The acts of aggression from the Chinese leadership and from the Chinese government – I think Australians deserve to know what what is taking place.’
More to follow