They weren’t the kinds of lasers wielded by the likes of Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo. But they were enough to force an unscheduled landing for an Australian navy helicopter.
A witness says the helicopter pilots were hit by the lasers while exercising in the South China Sea. The pilots then landed as a precaution. The culprits? Passing fishing vessels.
Australia receives warning from China
As you’re already most likely aware, China runs a strict guarding of the South China Sea passage. Though, you might not be aware that the maritime militia are disguised as fishing vessels — mission-ready for all short of combat. And that is exactly what the Australians were recently followed by on Tuesday.
‘Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia? It’s hard to say for sure, but similar incidents have occurred in the western Pacific,’ Mr Euan Graham wrote on website The Strategist.
Graham noted that while bridge-to-bridge communications were mainly polite, these events occur mainly when ships do not report any corrections to their course in advance.
And it’s not the first time we’ve seen a story like this — incidents like these have occurred as far away as Djibouti, where the US and China have bases, AP reports. Only last year, we saw US complain to China about lasers being directed at flying aircraft over the Horn of Africa nation.
This caused minor injuries to two American pilots — and yet, China did not claim responsibility.
Presence of Chinese vessels increases
This only goes to show how much the constant presence of the Chinese vessels has increased — allowing them to have ships on standby for force. Graham says this behaviour shows a maturing of their surveillance capability.
But regardless, the Australians have remained strong to the fact they won’t concede, as the territory is considered free water. That is, except for the five other governments that lay claims to the area.
At least, that’s what Graham says. And we all know that what China thinks will be starkly different.
As the US–China tariffs remain tense, we doubt this will have a nagging affect. However, we don’t expect to see China bowing anytime soon.
Hopefully, next time, a laser is the only warning…
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