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Australia claims a Chinese fighter jet intercepted its military surveillance

By Neelam Rahim

Australia’s defence department says a Chinese fighter jet dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in South China’s sea region in late May. In a statement, the defence department said the Royal Australian Air force P8 maritime surveillance aircraft was intercepted by Chinese J16 fighter jets during routine maritime surveillance activity in international air spaces in the region. The statement further claims the intercept resulted in a dangerous manoeuvre which posed a safety threat to the P8 aircraft and its crew. The Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Perth that his government had expressed concerns to China through appropriate channels. Still, there was no immediate comment from China’s embassy in Australia.

From Beijing Radio Islam discusses with Zoon Ahmed Khan, a Beijing-based Pakistani researcher and journalist.

Zoon says, “Yesterday and the day before, there was a response from the Ministry of foreign affairs official spokesperson. The response stated that Australia is not looking at the issue and is trying to convolute an issue that is black and white. I think the real problem is that there is a lack of trust in a broader context. And that lack of trust has resulted in an Australian aircraft being five thousand kilometres off Australian territory closer to China. There is a suspicion that there is a reason for these activities not only to try and provoke China in a certain way but also to gather sensitive information, then the response would be in kind. So China has responded not only to the Australian incident but also to the misunderstanding between Canada and China at this point. I think this entire incident points to a bigger issue between the various initiatives excluding China.”

Australia’s narrative seems to be an international space, and we have always carried out these exercises there. Why is it a problem now?

“The issues of the South China sea have been very complex. For China, the issue is that they sensed activity that could have been perceived as surveillance, gathering information on China, and crouching on China. The issue of misunderstanding is a debate that has been ongoing for a very long time, and it gets heated every few years,” says Khan.

Zoon further says, “Been a foreigner in Beijing. I see how the messaging of other countries excludes China and is trying to create a misconception of China as a threat. With that increasing, I don’t necessarily see contusive diplomatic dialogue, but at the same time, I do not see this escalating further.”  

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