Extract from ABC News
Photo: A Chinese spy ship was spotted off the Queensland coast monitoring Australia and US military exercises. (ABC News)
An influential Beijing-controlled news outlet has warned the recent deployment of a Chinese spy ship close to the Queensland coast is just the "beginning of China's future operations".The ABC revealed on Saturday that the high-tech Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) vessel was sighted by the Defence Force just outside Australian territorial waters during this month's Talisman Sabre military exercises.
Senior military officials have privately described the People's Liberation Army (PLA) move as "provocative" and "unfriendly", but the Defence Department has insisted the incident did not affect the war games between Australian and US forces.
Colonel Wu Qian, a PLA spokesman, speaking at a media conference about military reform in Beijing, addressed a question about the ship.
"The vessels and the aircraft of China like those of other countries have the right of free passage in the high seas," he said.
"The Chinese military has been active in expanding exchanges and participating in peacekeeping operations, anti-piracy escorts, international assistance and disaster relief. These speak of the positive image and sense of responsibility of a major nation".
An editorial published on Monday in China's state-run Global Times has described the Australian media reaction to the spy ship's presence as hypocritical and "shrill".
"While staunchly supporting US 'freedom of navigation [FON]' operations in the South China Sea, Australian media outlets are startled at, and are unwilling to accept, the 'sudden' appearance of the Chinese spy ship in their adjacent waters," the newspaper declared.
"There's an essential difference between a Chinese spy ship's low-key presence in Australia's adjacent waters and US warships sailing within 12 nautical miles of China's Nansha and Xisha islands."
The Global Times editorial has also suggested China's recent deployment of the Type 815 Dongdiao-class intelligence vessel so close to Australia is likely to be repeated.
"While the US and its allies always conduct joint patrols unilaterally in the South China Sea, China's naval vessels and spy ships have now started to appear in the waters significant to the West," it warned.
"Obviously, this is just a beginning of China's future operations. China will build more warships and meanwhile make full use of them.""The PLA Navy has a mission to safeguard China's national security.
"Now it is time to explore new ways to carry out such a mission."