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Australian P-8A was provocative, says Chinese state-controlled media on laser incident

An image of the two Chinese ships that were monitored by an Australian P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, released by the Australian Department of Defence on 19 February. (Commonwealth of Australia)

China has accused the Australian aircraft involved in a lasing incident on 17 February of being provocative towards People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels.

The incident has also been used by Canberra “to throw mud at China”, said state-controlled news outlet Global Times on 21 February, citing several unnamed experts and analysts in its commentary.

“…it is an attempt to throw mud at China when the PLA has been sending assistance to other countries in the region like Tonga and the Solomon Islands, helping them overcome disaster and epidemic...”, reads the report that cited unnamed experts, implying that the vessels in the incident were involved in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) work in Tonga.

“PLA aircraft and vessels have been frequent visitors to the South Pacific recently, as they sent supplies to Tonga for disaster relief and to the Solomon Islands for anti-epidemic efforts,” reads the Global Times report.

Global Times is an English-language newspaper that has often been used by Beijing as an indirect medium to address issues concerning international affairs. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China has not issued a statement on the incident so far.

Australia's Department of Defence (DoD) said on 19 February that one of its P-8A Poseidon detected a laser illuminating the aircraft while in flight over Australia's northern approaches on 17 February. The laser was detected from one of two PLAN vessels in the area.

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