SYDNEY - Australian authorities are tracking a Chinese surveillance ship that is expected to monitor large-scale military exercises involving the United States off the coast of Queensland.
Australia said Wednesday it “fully expected a ship of this class to arrive in our region” during military exercises with the United States. Officials have said they “had planned for its presence.”
The auxiliary general intelligence Chinese ship is expected to monitor the Talisman Sabre 2021 war games that officially began Wednesday. They are designed to strengthen a decades-old military alliance and boost combat readiness. The drills include “amphibious landings, ground force maneuver, urban operations, air combat and maritime operations.”
It is the largest bilateral training exercise between Australia and the U.S.
In an official defense force video, Australian Air Commodore Stuart Bellingham said other countries were also taking part in the drills in Queensland state.
“In addition to the United States this year will involve participating forces from Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom,” he said. “Due to COVID-19, you will notice fewer international participants this year compared to the past.”
The Chinese electronic spy vessel is expected to closely monitor the Talisman Sabre war games during the next two weeks.
In 2019, the same type of ship was also tracked during military maneuvers in Australia.
Military analyst and former Australian Defense Department Secretary Hugh White told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that such surveillance has become commonplace.
“This is the kind of thing we should expect to see happen and expect to see increasingly happen as the Asia-Pacific, the Indo-Pacific becomes increasingly a theater of strategic rivalry as it is,” he said.
The Chinese ship is expected to remain outside Australian territorial waters as it monitors the multinational warfighting games over the next two weeks. It is, however, expected to be within Australia’s exclusive economic zone, where it is entitled to be if it is not carrying out any economic activity.
Australian officials have said they do not expect its presence to impede the war drills in Queensland. The vessel is scheduled to arrive off Australia on Friday.
Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner, China, have deteriorated in recent years over various commercial and geopolitical disputes.