Beijing has sent a second high-tech surveillance vessel to Queensland as large-scale military exercises involving Australian and US forces intensify.
- The Haiwangxing was followed on approach to Australia through the Solomon Sea near PNG
- Military official says he’s been “on our radar for some time”
- It is a sister ship to another ship that would also monitor this year’s Talisman Saber exercise.
Just days after ABC revealed that a People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) ship was being followed by ADF, defense sources confirmed another intelligence gathering vessel is expected to arrive soon. also off the east coast.
A military official, who spoke to the ABC on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly, said Haiwangxing (which translates to “Neptune”) has been “on our radar for some time. “.
The Haiwangxing is a General Intelligence Auxiliary Ship (AGI) and younger sister ship of the Tianwangxing (“Uranus”), which is already closely monitoring this year’s Talisman Saber exercise.
During the last two Talisman Saber exercises in 2019 and 2017, China deployed an AGI to study how US forces interact with their Australian allies, but this is the first time that a second surveillance vessel has arrived.
Australia, like the United States, also regularly deploys intelligence gathering assets to monitor military activity in other countries, but defense officials believe it is “unusual” for two Chinese ships to monitor the Talisman Saber in 2021.
The Tianwangxing was tracked by the ADF as it crossed the Torres Strait into Queensland waters, but the Haiwangxing is approaching through the Solomon Sea around Papua New Guinea.
So far, the Defense Ministry has not publicly commented on the imminent arrival of the second Chinese surveillance vessel, although it was approached by the ABC on Friday.
A spokesperson for Defense Minister Peter Dutton has not yet answered questions from the CBA.
During the past week, the United States fired a Patriot missile for the first time at Australian soil as part of the “Talisman Saber” training activity, which takes place every two years.
On Sunday, the US military is expected to give a live fire demonstration of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a technology that the ADF may soon purchase.
Talisman Saber is described as “Australia’s largest war exercise,” but this year the number of international participants has been reduced due to COVID-19.
In addition to the forces of the United States and Japan, this year the activity will also include military personnel from Canada, South Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The two Chinese Type 815 ships are expected to remain outside Australian territorial waters but within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as they monitor the fortnightly war games.
ANU Law Professor Donald Rothwell said if the two PLAN vessels remained outside Australia’s “12 nautical mile” limit while operating in the EEZ, their activity would comply with the law. on freedom of navigation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The Torres Strait is an international strait under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and this status is universally recognized,” said Professor Rothwell.
“It is doubtful whether intelligence-gathering activities carried out by the Tianwangxing during its passage through the Torres Strait are permitted under the Convention. “