National Security

Yellow Sea flare up 'very serious'

May 7, 2024

Tuesday 07 May 2024
Clare Armstrong
The Daily Telegraph

 An Australian navy helicopter pilot was forced to take evasive action to  avoid hitting several flares fired by a Chinese fighter jet over  international waters near North Korea.
 Defence Minister Richard Marles last night condemned the "very  serious" incident as "unsafe" and "unprofessional,"  while Australia has registered its concern with Beijing.
 Australian air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart was in the Yellow Sea taking  part in Operation Argos - an international effort to prevent North Korea  smuggling sanctioned goods by sea - when the incident occurred about 7.30pm  Australian time on Saturday. Mr Marles said a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter  operating from the destroyer was taking a routine flight when it was  "intercepted" by a J-10 Chinese Air Force plane.
 "The PLA-Air Force plane dropped flares about 300m in front of the  Seahawk helicopter and about 60m above it, requiring the helicopter to take  evasive action in order to not be hit by those flares," he said.
 "The consequence of being hit by the flares would have been significant.  Importantly, the helicopter was unaffected and all the crew are safe."  Mr Marles said the interactions between the Chinese People's Liberation Army  and Australian Defence Force were "unacceptable".
 "This is a very serious incident," he said. "We expect that  when we have interactions with other militaries, including with the Chinese  military, that those interactions are professional and safe." Mr Marles  said Australia had formally expressed its concerns about the incident to the  Chinese Government.
 "It is our expectation in the interaction of our two militaries that  they happen in a manner which is professional and safe for all  concerned," he said.
 Mr Marles said Australia had been part of the operation enforcing sanctions  on North Korea for six years.
 "The Australian Defence Force is engaged in important work enforcing UN  Security Council sanctions and in doing that work we were operating on the  high seas in accordance with international law and in accordance with the UN  Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.
 Coalition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie condemned the "provocative and  dangerous" actions of China's military, saying it built on a  "pattern of aggressive behaviour" toward the ADF.
 "We are relieved that no ADF personnel were injured by this reckless,  dangerous and foolish move. It does not build trust between our  nations," he said. "The Coalition calls on Richard Marles to stand  up for our ADF personnel and raise this incident directly with his Chinese  counterpart." Coalition Home Affairs spokesman James Paterson described  China's actions as an "extremely dangerous coercive step" that had  endangered the lives of Australian military personnel.
 "This should not be allowed to happen and the Australian Government must  be incredibly robust in our response," Mr Paterson said.
 In a statement, a spokesman for the ADF said the release of flares into the  flight path of the Seahawk helicopter was "unsafe" and posed a risk  to the aircraft and personnel.
 "While there were no injuries sustained by ADF personnel or damaged  caused to the MH-60R helicopter, the safety and wellbeing of our ADF  personnel continues to be our utmost priority," the statement said.
 "Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their  militaries in a professional and safe manner."

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