Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel Neptune was seen to be operating in the vicinity of Exercise Talisman Sabre recently.
CAPTION: Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel Neptune operating in the vicinity of Exercise Talisman Sabre. ADF photo.
While there were 33 naval vessels from several countries involved in Exercise Talisman Sabre, this particular ship was an uninvited observer.
However, the spy ship stayed out of the way, remaining in international waters – presumably hoovering in copious quantities of electronic data – or maybe even suffering electronic jamming by the numerous American and Australian EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft operating off the Shoalwater Bay coast.
CONTACT is amused to think of the ‘games’ that were played, and the lessons learnt – on both sides.
Exercise scenarios aside, PLA-N Neptune did remain in international waters.
“It is important to recognise that all states have a right under international law to freedom of navigation – Australia strongly supports these rights,” Australian Defence Minister Marine Payne has said in the past – though she was talking at the time about Australia, the USA’s and everybody else’s right to sail past the disputed Spratly and other islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
‘Fair go’– you can’t defend your own rights to freedom of navigation and restrict anyone else, including China.
And, of course, Australia doesn’t and didn’t object to Neptune’s presence.
While it might have been slightly irritating on one hand, it was totally expected and probably welcomed by those who would want to test new equipment – especially Growlers.
At the same time the People’s Liberation Army-Navy spy ship was teasing Ex Talisman Sabre, Defence officials in Canberra welcomed the Political Commissar Southern Theatre Command, from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Wei Liang on a good-will visit to Australia.
The visit, which occurred on 15–19 July, included discussions with senior Defence officials, including the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.
The delegation also visited Victoria Barracks and HMAS Watson in Sydney.
Meetings between senior Defence officials and General Wei Liang provided an opportunity to exchange views on regional issues and Australia-China defence engagement – of which there is plenty, with Aussie soldier exercising in China and Chinese soldiers exercising in Australia in recent years.
“It is important for Australia and China to maintain a positive defence relationship,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.
“I had a meaningful discussion with General Wei and welcomed the opportunity to reinforce the relationship between Australia and China.”
“The Goodwill delegation’s visit provides an opportunity to strengthen people-to-people links and foster transparency between the Australian Defence Force and China’s People’s Liberation Army.”
+ + +