Sat, Jun 08, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Chinese warships leave Sydney after intimidating visit

Reuters, SYDNEY

The Kunlun Shan, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 071 amphibious transport dock, passes the Sydney Opera House as it departs Sydney yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Three Chinese warships yesterday sailed out of Sydney after an unannounced visit that came amid a tussle for influence between Australia and China in the Pacific Ocean.

The show-of-force call by a frigate, supply ship and amphibious warfare vessel was planned, but never announced by the Australian government.

“That raised a lot of hackles,” Australian National University professor of international security and intelligence studies John Blaxland told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“The ships arrived off Darling Point and other famous places in Sydney’s harbor without people knowing in advance ... and with armed soldiers and sailors on the decks of the ships looking fairly aggressive,” Blaxland said.

The vessels left for China under leaden skies in the afternoon.

The warships had arrived on the eve of the 30th anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Photographs showed members of Sydney’s Chinese community waiting at the navy wharf where the ships docked to greet the sailors.

“It was a reciprocal visit, because Australian naval vessels visited China,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters earlier this week in the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara.

“So it may have been a surprise to others, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise to the government,” he added.

Ties between Australia and China hit a low last year, when Canberra passed laws aimed at thwarting Chinese influence in domestic affairs and also over China’s assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.

Australia has offered diplomatic support to US “freedom of navigation” voyages through the region.

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