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Australia condemns Chinese interception of Seahawk helicopter over international waters

SYDNEY — Analysts say China continues to undertake “incredibly aggressive’” military actions after an Australian navy helicopter in international waters was targeted by flares dropped by a Chinese fighter jet.  

The Canberra government has condemned the incident as dangerous and unprofessional.

The Australian Seahawk helicopter was taking part in a United Nations mission to enforce sanctions against North Korea when it was intercepted by the Chinese air force.

Officials in Canberra say the Chinese fighter jet detonated flares close to the Australian helicopter, forcing its pilot to take evasive action.

The incident took place over international waters in the Yellow Sea off the coast of South Korea during the weekend.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that his government had made “very strong representations at every level to China” about the incident.  

Since coming to power in May 2022, the Albanese government has made concerted efforts to improve relations with China, Australia’s biggest trading partner.

Analysts say that while Australia’s diplomatic and economic relationships with China are stabilizing, bilateral military ties remain unpredictable.

Jennifer Parker, an adjunct fellow at the University of New South Wales and an expert associate at the Australian National University’s National Security College, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Tuesday that the Canberra government must contend with growing military tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

“Whilst the diplomatic and economic relationship may have stabilized from where it was, from a military perspective, China is still being incredibly aggressive in the region and not just towards Australia,” she said. “We saw last week Chinese vessels water cannoning Philippines government vessels in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal, which sits right within the Philippines exclusive economic zone. So, we do know that China’s aggressive behavior in the region has not changed.”

Last week, the Philippines accused China of “dangerous maneuvers” and “harassment” after its use of water cannons against two Philippine vessels during a patrol in the South China Sea.

In response, Beijing urged the Philippines government not to “challenge China’s resolve” to defend China’s sovereignty in the region.

Beijing has sweeping claims in the South China Sea, which is a major international shipping route.