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More 'Unsafe' Encounters Between Australian and Chinese Forces Near Disputed South China Sea Region 


FILE - A Chinese SU-27 fighter flies over the East China Sea, in this handout photo taken May 24, 2014 and released by the Defense Ministry of Japan, May 25, 2014.

Australia’s new Air Force Chief has said surveillance missions would continue in the South China Sea despite a “recent spate of unsafe incidences” in the contested region.

In May, a Royal Australian Air Force surveillance plane was intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet in international air space claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea region.

At the time, officials in Canberra accused Beijing, Australia’s biggest trading partner, of intimidation.

Since then, bilateral ties have been strained in recent years over various geo-political, diplomatic and trade disputes.

And there have been other as-yet unspecified encounters with Chinese forces, according to Air Marshal Robert Chipman, who became the new chief of the Australian air force in July 2022.

At the time, officials in Canberra accused Beijing, Australia’s biggest trading partner, of intimidation.

Since then, bilateral ties have been strained in recent years over various geo-political, diplomatic and trade disputes.

And there have been other as-yet unspecified encounters with Chinese forces, according to Air Marshal Robert Chipman, who became the new chief of the Australian air force in July 2022.

In his first comments to the media, Chipman said the incidents were “robust” and he insisted that Australia would continue its maritime surveillance flights over the region.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, he said that despite the recent encounters, Australia did not expect to see an increase in confrontations with Chinese aircraft near the South China Sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes and has enflamed territorial disputes in the region for years.

FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2017, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese military H-6K bomber is seen conducting training exercises, as the People's Liberation Army Air Force conducted a combat air patrol in the South China Sea.
FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2017, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese military H-6K bomber is seen conducting training exercises, as the People's Liberation Army Air Force conducted a combat air patrol in the South China Sea.

During a media briefing, Chipman said Beijing has become increasingly assertive in the region.

“We think that China has a formidable aerospace capability and that they have concentrated that aerospace capability in the South China Sea region to deter others from going into that airspace. It does not make it impenetrable and it does not mean that you cannot deliver military effects to achieve your interest when you are operating against China,” he said.

Chipman has held talks in Canberra with U.S. Secretary for the Air Force Frank Kendall. Both sides have spoken about tensions around Taiwan and boosting cooperation in the South China Sea.

The talks have coincided with Exercise Pitch Black, a three-week international military exercise in northern Australia.

This year’s event brings together 2,500 personnel and up to 100 military aircraft from around the world including France, Indonesia, Singapore and the United States.

Forces from Germany, Japan, and Korea are participating fully for the first time.

The military exercises run from August 19 to September 8.

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