Australia is accusing the Chinese navy of firing a laser at one of its anti-submarine warfare aircraft off the northern coast in an incident that threatens to worsen relations between the two Pacific countries.
Australian officials said a P-8A Poseidon detected a laser illuminating the aircraft on Feb. 17. It originated from a warship of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) that was sailing east through the Arafura Sea between Australia and western New Guinea.
The officials said the incident could have endangered the safety and lives of the crew.
“We strongly condemn unprofessional and unsafe military conduct,” Australian defense officials said in a statement. “Such actions are not in keeping with the standards we expect of professional militaries.”
The Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times identified two PLA-N ships operating in the area at the time as the Type 052D destroyer Hefei and the Type 071 amphibious landing ship Jinggangshan. It claimed that both ships were sailing in international waters at the time and accused Australia of making an unsafe reconnaissance flight over the vessels.
“It is an attempt to throw mud at China when the PLA has been sending assistance to other countries in the region like Tonga and the Solomon Islands,” the Global Times said.