China hits back against Australia over spy ship claims

Source: Associated Press

China said on Saturday that it "always abides by international law" following the Australian defence minister's statement that a Chinese warship with spying capabilities has been hugging the nation's western coastline.

Generic photo of radar on a ship

Minister Peter Dutton said the ship was sighted Friday heading north about 250 nautical miles from Broome in Western Australia, and had been tracked along the coastline for the past week.

Asked about the ship sighting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he had no information about the specific situation, but that "China always abides by international law and international practice."

"The relevant Australian politician should see the relevant situation objectively and calmly, and not make sensational remarks," Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

Tensions between China and Australia have been heightened recently after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.

READ MORE: Chinese spy ship spotted off Australia coast

Commenting on the Covid outbreak in North Korea, Zhao said Beijing was ready to offer North Korea help but said he had no information about any such request being made.

Asked whether China would be evacuating its nationals from North Korea, Zhao said Beijing will closely monitor the situation and maintain communication with the North to ensure the health and safety of Chinese citizens there.

Zhao slammed the EU and Japan for interfering in the country's internal affairs after the two sides expressed concerns over a series of China-related questions, including mounting tensions across the Taiwan Strait and the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong, in a joint statement released Friday.

China has made "stern complaints" with the EU and Japan, Zhao said.

Japan and the European Union on Friday agreed to step up their sanctions against Russia as leaders from the two sides raised concerns about the war's impact in the Indo-Pacific, where they seek to strengthen their partnership and increase engagement amid China's growing assertiveness.

Zhao also commented on the two-day US-ASEAN summit began Friday in Washington, where US President Joe Biden announced more than NZ$240 million in new projects to bolster Southeast Asia's climate, maritime and public health infrastructure.

"China and the United States are both Asia-Pacific countries, and we absolutely can have mutual friends," Zhao insisted, calling on the US to bear in mind the regional interest and "play a positive and constructive role" in promoting regional development.