In an interview with Sky News, the prime minister condemned the behaviour that left a diver from the HMAS Toowoomba with minor ear damage.
“This was dangerous, it was unsafe and unprofessional from the Chinese forces,” Albanese said.
“And our major concern, of course, is always for the safety of our Australian Defence Force personnel. And in this case, one person suffered an injury as a result of the actions of China.
“Be clear, they were engaged in normal activity, maritime surveillance that occurs because of freedom of navigation that exists through the South China Sea.”
A group of divers had been clearing fishing nets that were entangled in the Toowoomba’s propellers in international waters near Japan on Tuesday when a People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) destroyer approached.
It was told by the Toowoomba that there were divers in the water but drew even closer and began using its hull-mounted sonar in an incident Albanese said highlighted the need for better communication between the nations’ armed forces.
“Dialogue brings understanding and understanding is always good,” he said.
“Because the consequences of these events are that they do damage to the relationship. And this certainly is an event that does do damage.
“And we’ve made that very clear to China.”
How exactly Australia has made that clear to China remains unclear. The federal opposition has criticised Albanese for not bringing the matter up when he met with President Xi Jinping later in the week in San Francisco.
The prime minister didn’t confirm whether he had or hadn’t raised the issue with Xi, but insisted it had been discussed through appropriate channels.
“I don’t talk about private meetings on the sidelines, discussions I have with any world leader,” Albanese said.
“That’s how you keep communications open. But I can assure you that we raised these issues in the appropriate way and very clearly, unequivocally.
“And China, there’s no misunderstanding as to Australia’s view on this.”
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