Aussie ships ‘confronted’ by Chinese navy
Australian warships sailing near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea have been confronted by the Chinese navy, the ABC reports.
The Australian Defence Force joint task group consisting of five ships was travelling through the area last week on the way to Hawaii for joint military war games with the US and Japan in the Philippine Sea.
The broadcaster did not specify details of the confrontation, noting it was not clear precisely where the interaction took place.
The ABC reports the HMAS Canberra, HMAS Hobart, HMAS Stuart, HMAS Arunta and HMAS Sirius all remained outside 12 nautical miles of the contested islands, unlike recent so-called "freedom of navigation" exercises conducted by the US navy to challenge Beijing.
The Defence Department said in a statement to the ABC that all "unplanned interactions with foreign warships throughout the deployment were conducted in a safe and professional manner".
Royal Australian Navy (RAN) vessels have had a number of run-ins with the Chinese military in the South China Sea in recent years.
The ABC noted the RAN was closely followed by the Chinese military during a similar transit last year.
In 2018, Australian warships on the way to Vietnam had a civil but "robust" exchange after being challenged.
The previous year, Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit by lasers during exercises, forcing them to land as a precaution.
The Defence Department has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as Aussie ships 'confronted' by Chinese navy