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Australia demands explanation from China over laser incident

Australia demands explanation from China over laser incident

Canberra: The Australian government had demanded an explanation for why China "endangered" the lives of people by pointing a laser at an Australian military aeroplane that was scouting the northern reaches of the country on Thursday. A "full investigation" should be conducted in the matter, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

On radio this Monday, Morrison said no response had been received from China despite requests for an explanation from Australia. He also pointed out that China would have strongly objected had it been the target of such an incident.

"I can see it no other way than an act of intimidation, one...unprovoked, unwarranted," Morrison said at a media briefing today. "And Australia will never accept such acts of intimidation."

A Chinese navy vessel within Australia's exclusive economic zone directed a laser at an Australian military aircraft in flight over Australia's northern approaches, illuminating the plane and potentially endangering lives, Australia's defence ministry said on Saturday.

The P-8A Poseidon - a maritime patrol aircraft - detected a laser emanating from a People's Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) vessel, the Defence Department said, releasing photographs of two Chinese vessels sailing close to Australia's northern coast.

Relations between Australia and China, its top trade partner, soured after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. from its 5G broadband network in 2018, toughened laws against foreign political interference, and urged an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

It has also signed the AUKUS pact with the US and UK, which allows for exchange of nuclear technology and intelligence, a move which is widely seen as a way for the US to support its ally as well as counter China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

In January, PM Morrison's WeChat account was hacked and the name changed, which was decried as an attempt by the Chinese government to censor those on the Chinese - made app. Several of Morrison's posts had also been taken down before.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra did not respond to a request for comment. Beijing has not commented publicly about the incident.

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