Australia ‘hyping’ warplane interception, Chinese state media says

Beijing has accused Canberra of "hyping" the mid-air interception by a Chinese fighter jet of an Australian military reconnaissance aircraft last month.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon was conducting routine surveillance in international airspace above the South China Sea on May 26 when the J-16 jet flew "very close", set off flares and dropped chaff in its path, the Department of Defence said.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said the federal government had raised its concerns over the "very dangerous" intercept with the Chinese government.

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A Royal Australian Air Force P-8 Poseidon aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet, the Department of Defence says.

But the state-backed Global Times newspaper claimed the Australian military had withheld key details about the incident in an editorial headlined "Hyping PLA's 'dangerous intercept,' who is Australia performing to again?".

"For example, where exactly in the South China Sea is the area in which the incident occurred? How far is it from the Chinese islands and reefs in the region? What is their purpose here?" the article reads.

"Furthermore, what did the Australian military aircraft do before the intercept? How far was the Australian jet from the Chinese aircraft at that time? Why didn't Australia take the initiative to announce it?"

Marles said the Chinese jet had flown near the RAAF plane before releasing "small pieces of aluminium" into the air.

The Australian aircraft returned to base and its crew was unharmed.

The Global Times accused Marles of playing to the media in his comments.

It noted his response echoed government comments in February when the Australian military said a Chinese navy vessel fired a laser at one of its aircraft.

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A Chinese J-16 fighter jet.

"This time, Marles also pretended to be "the weak" and said in front of a reporter's microphone that Australia will not be deterred by China's intimidation.

"This is obviously a tone favoured by American and Western journalists, and Australian politicians are well versed in it and pick what they want to hear."

The editorial also urged the new Labor government against following its Coalition predecessor in striving to become Washington's "right-hand man" in the Pacific.

"Canberra's approach is inappropriate and unwise … the key is that Canberra needs to take actual actions …. No one can act as Washington's "goon" while making a fortune from China."

The vast South China Sea has become hotly disputed between China and other countries, including Australia.

Tensions in the contested waters have ratcheted up since 2014 as China has turned sandbars into islands, equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems and warned Western warships and aircraft to stay away from them.

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