Anthony Albanese said that the incident happened last Tuesday in international waters, but declined to say whether he had raised the issue in recent talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said on Saturday that he had raised serious concerns with Beijing over the ship’s behavior, with Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian today assuring that Australia’s accusations were ” completely false.”
“We urge the Australian side to respect the facts, stop making reckless and irresponsible accusations against China, and do more to build mutual trust and create a positive atmosphere for the healthy development of relations between the two countries and the two militaries,” said the spokesperson.
In the period between the incident and Marles’ statement, the Australian prime minister spoke with Xi, on the sidelines of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders held in San Francisco, in the United States.
“I don’t talk about private meetings I have with any world leader,” Albanese said, adding, however, that the incident “was regrettable” and that Australia had set out “strong objections” to China, “very clearly and very directly, through all appropriate channels and in all forums.”
According to the head of the Australian Government, the incident “damages the relationship” with China, as it was a “dangerous, unsafe and unprofessional encounter on the part of Chinese forces”.
The Australian party opposition accused Albanese of failing to address the issue in the meeting with Xi for fear that it would undermine the improvements recently achieved in the bilateral relationship, saying that the prime minister’s leadership “is weak”.
Albanese recently became the first Australian head of government to visit China in seven years, in a sign that relations have improved.
The US, Canadian and Australian militaries have repeatedly complained about what they consider dangerous actions by the Chinese Navy and Air Force in the western Pacific, and several analysts have admitted to fear that a collision or other accident could trigger an international incident and turn into a conflict.
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