China Navy used sonar pulses against divers, Australia says
Australia has alleged that China’s navy employed sonar pulses in an incident within international waters, leading to injuries among Australian divers.
According to the Australian defense minister, a Chinese warship engaged in “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior during the encounter with Japan this week.
The warship approached an Australian frigate while divers were removing fishing nets from its propellers, and the Chinese vessel subsequently emitted hazardous sonar pulses, prompting the Australian divers to evacuate the water due to the perceived safety risk, as stated by Defence Minister Richard Marles in a Saturday announcement.
The divers suffered minor injuries that were likely caused by the sonar, Mr Marles said.
“Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries professionally and safely,” he said.
The Australian long-range frigate HMAS Toowoomba had communicated its intention to conduct diving operations on normal maritime channels, and using internationally recognized signals, the statement said.
There has been no comment from the Chinese government.
According to the Diving Medical Advisory Committee, a London-based body, high levels of underwater sound can cause “dizziness, hearing damage or other injuries” to divers.
The reported incident occurred on Tuesday in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. HMAS Toowoomba was conducting operations in support of UN sanctions enforcement, Mr. Marles said, without giving details.
Earlier this month Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a breakthrough trip to China, and hailed “significant progress” in relations between the Pacific powers.
However, tensions remain, notably over security. Australia has expressed concern over China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.
Canberra has recently deepened military ties with the US and overhauled its defense posture in a bid to counter potential threats from China.