Recently, a Chinese military ship pointed a laser at an Australian surveillance plane off the northern coast. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described this as an “act of intimidation.”

In televised remarks in Melbourne early Sunday, Feb. 20, Morrison said, “I’m very concerned about the actions of using the lasers. That is, I can see it no other way than an act of intimidation, one that was unprovoked, unwarranted, and Australia will never accept such acts of intimidation.”

According to a statement released by the Australian Department of Defense late Saturday, Feb. 19, the incident occurred three days earlier when a P-8A Poseidon patrol plane spotted a laser beam from a Chinese naval ship traveling east through the Arafura Sea.

Morrison stated that Australia was pressing the laser problem with China via diplomatic and defense means. But, he added, “It was a reckless and irresponsible act, and it should not occur.”

The event occurred in Australia’s exclusive economic zone, which Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton called an example of “aggressive bullying” by China’s military.

Dutton told Sky News television: “I think the Chinese government is hoping that nobody talks about these aggressive bullying acts.”

He added: “We’re seeing different forms of it right across the region and in many parts of the world.”

According to Australia’s defense ministry, the Chinese warship involved in the laser incident traveled alongside another Chinese vessel and has since passed through the Torres Strait. Both are in the east of Australia in the Coral Sea.

The laser aimed at the aircraft can blind the pilot quickly, causing great danger. According to the Australian Department of Defense, such actions fall below the standard expected of professional forces.

The department claimed, “Acts like this have the potential to endanger lives.”

It added: “We strongly condemn unprofessional and unsafe military conduct. These actions could have endangered the safety and lives of the Australian Defence Force personnel.”

Over the last decade, Beijing has tightened its grip on the South China Sea, erecting artificial structures in controversial areas and sending big ships to block surrounding countries from utilizing the sea’s fish and energy resources. Australia has strengthened its military forces and developed closer ties with India and Japan in response.

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