‘They’re watching us!’ China surveillance ship ‘listening in’, says Australian deputy PM

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The Tianwangxing, a Chinese auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel, began observing the Talisman Sabre 2021 war games on Friday. The exercises, held off the coast of northeast Australia, are the largest bilateral training exercise between Australia and the US and practices amphibious landings, ground force manoeuvres, urban, air and maritime operations.

Speaking on Sydney radio station 2GB, Barnaby Joyce, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, claimed the Chinese ship was doing more than just observing the military drill.

“We can’t do anything about (the ship in Queensland), quite frankly,” he said.

“They can sit in international waters and do their job.”

Mr Joyce alleged: “But that’s one section of the listening and there are other sections where they try to hack in.

“They have computers that will basically try and break into our computers and into our secret areas and communication networks.

“But (you have to ask) what is interesting about Australia? It’s your iron ore, your gas, your vital agricultural exports and your alliances and how close your platform is with the United States.

“(China wants to learn) how well your platforms work together in comparison to their platforms and their military.”

The Chinese vessel is entitled to operate in the area as it is not performing any economic activity.

The Talisman Sabre war games, which began on Wednesday, are expected to take place over the next two weeks.

Other nations are also taking part in the drill, including forces from Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the UK.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be closely monitoring the Chinese military vessel for “several days”.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “very wary” of the surveillance vessel’s presence.

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“Of course we’re watching them,” he said. “And they’re watching us.

“The law of the sea says we can be up in the South China Sea.

“And so we simply say that we think the same tolerances and the same appreciation of those international laws should apply.”

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