CANBERRA: Australia has accused China’s navy of using sonar pulses in an incident in international waters that resulted in Australian divers suffering injuries.
The Australian defence minister said a Chinese warship had resorted to “unsafe and unprofessional” actions during the encounter off Japan earlier this week.
The Chinese ship then emitted dangerous sonar pulses, the minister added.
This had posed “a risk to the safety of the Australian divers, who were forced to exit the water”, Defence Minister Richard Marles said in a statement on Saturday.
The divers suffered minor injuries that were likely caused by the sonar, Marles said.
“Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner,” he said
The Australian long-range frigate HMAS Toowoomba had communicated its intention to conduct diving operations on normal maritime channels, and using internationally recognized signals, the statement said.
There has been no comment for the Chinese government.
According to the Diving Medical Advisory Committee, a London-based body, high levels of underwater sound can cause “dizziness, hearing damage or other injuries” to divers.
Earlier this month Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a breakthrough trip to China, and hailed “significant progress” in relations between the Pacific powers.
However tensions remain, notably over security. Australian has expressed concern over China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.
Canberra has recently deepened military ties with the US and overhauled its defence posture in a bid to counter potential threats from China.
China and Australia are proof that governments do not have to like each other to do business.
When Anthony Albanese arrives in China on Saturday, he will be the first Australian prime minister to visit in seven years.
His three-day trip comes in the wake of plummeting relations between the two countries and Canberra’s growing military ties with Washington.
In recent years Australia and China have accused each other over human rights violations and perceived threats to national security. Public perceptions of the other side are more negative than they have ever been. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)