Chinese fighter planes intercepted an Australian aircraft in the South China Sea Region during a routine surveillance activity by Australia in international airspace, the department of security said in a news release Saturday.
The intercept resulted in a “dangerous maneuver” causing a safety threat to the Australian RAAF P-8 maritime aircraft and its crew on May 26.
An Australian defence spokesperson confirmed to Global News that flares were deployed into the plane’s path.
The Australian government says it has raised concerns about the interception to the Chinese government.
“Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace,” the department of defence said in its news release.
The incident comes just after multiple sources in the Canadian Forces and the federal government told Global News that Chinese jets were repeatedly “buzzing” a Canadian surveillance plane over international waters that’s part of a United Nations mission.
Late last week sources told Global News Canada was not the only country being targeted by the Chinese with “unsafe and unprofessional” intercepts over international airspace and that one of those intercepts may have involved flares deployed by the Chinese directly into the Australian aircraft’s flight path.
On Friday, Global News asked the Australian Department of Defence if this had occurred and did not receive a response until after the department released a public statement saying a “dangerous” intercept had occurred on May 26.
Global News again asked if the flight in the public statement has flares deployed into its path to which the Australian defence spokesperson confirmed saying: “Yes. As the issue is being discussed through diplomatic channels, Defence will not be providing further responses”.
Global News has learned the aircraft was damaged by the flares.
Since this spring, there have been approximately 60 intercepts with Chinese fighter jets and over two dozen have been dangerous, sources have told Global News.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also spoken out and said his government will be addressing the interception reports directly with Chinese officials to ensure it is not part of an “escalatory problem.”
“We take this situation very seriously,” Trudeau told reporters while speaking at an event in the Siksika First Nation in Alberta on June 2.
“The fact that China would have chosen to do this is extremely troubling, so we will be bringing it up directly with Chinese officials and (government) counterparts and ensuring that this doesn’t continue to be part of an escalatory pattern.”
— With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton
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