China Buzzes Australia’s New Prime Minister

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese



Photo:

mick tsikas/Shutterstock

Anthony Albanese

has been Australia’s Prime Minister for less than a month, but China is already testing whether he’ll stand up to intimidation as well as his predecessor did. Australia said Sunday that on May 26 a Chinese fighter jet intercepted an Australian surveillance aircraft conducting a routine mission in international airspace near the South China Sea.

Australia’s Defense Ministry said the Chinese jet pulled alongside the aircraft, then moved in front, releasing flares and chaff that “resulted in a dangerous maneuver which posed a safety threat” to the Australian plane and its crew. Australia lodged a complaint with Beijing, but this was probably no accident.

Beijing is looking to see how Mr. Albanese holds up under pressure. China views most of the South China Sea as its sovereign waters and it would like to see the Aussies and other countries concede the point by ending surveillance and cooperation with the U.S. In case Canberra missed the point, Chinese Foreign Minister

Wang Yi

laid down Beijing’s law of cooperation on a recent visit to Papua New Guinea, to the north of Australia.

“The crux of the difficulties in China–Australia relations in the past few years is that some political force in Australia insists on viewing China as a rival rather than a partner and framing China’s development as a threat rather than an opportunity,” the foreign ministry quoted Mr. Wang as saying in a statement. Consider this the diplomatic equivalent of a jet fighter buzzing a surveillance aircraft.

China has made a strategic decision to become the dominant power in the Western and South Pacific. Australia should expect more such military harassment unless Mr. Albanese bows to Beijing’s definition of “opportunity.”

Journal Editorial Report: Paul Gigot interviews military analyst Seth Jones. Images: AP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the June 6, 2022, print edition as ‘China Buzzes Australia’s Prime Minister.’

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