China turned up the heat as its PLA Navy confronts the Australian Navy conducting navigation in international waters far from the Spratlys, wrongly claimed as Chinese territory.
Tension has been rising in the South China Sea and gotten worse with the Chinese Navy's attempts to show a glimmer of token resistance to more ships contesting their dominion. Australia media reported the interaction recently as the SCS sees more activity, reported Forbes.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that the Australian Defense Force joint task group consisting of five warships were navigating free waters with those close to the Spratlys that was called by the US as illegal. China claims a large area that is not lawful.
ABC added that the Australian warships were far from the 12-mile limit allowed by international law. Recently, the U.S. naval fleet has been doing freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) near the Spratlys and other illegal claims.
During the sea encounter, the Chinese vessels shadowed the Australian Defense Force and kept a distance. Furthermore, the ADF added that all interactions with other navies in any deployment conducted safely and professionally.
The vessels that are included in the Australia Task Force is the amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra, destroyer Hobart, with frigates Arunta and Stuart, and supply ship Sirius. Both the Australia and Chinese navies had an encounter when the 5-ship battlegroup was steaming into contested waters in the South China Sea. Meeting up with U.S. and Japanese ships for a joint naval exercise slated in the Philippine Sea. After the trilateral exercises, the ADF will head to Hawaii for the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercises.
This is not a mere coincidence as the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared plans to beef the Australian Military with a AU$270 billion (US$192 billion) for expenses to modernizing in the next ten years. More weapons to increase military capability and getting long-range anti-ship missiles to kill the Liaoning and Shandong lastly is bolstering cyberwarfare against more intrusions by CCP hackers.
The CCP in Beijing is conducting a silent war to occupy the South China Sea, and Australia will not sit back in the sidelines. Communists are claiming waters and sea rocks in the SCS like the Spratlys which is also owned by the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Beijing is even attempting to grab Japanese territory in the East China Sea.
China's moves are reminders of fears that communist China will attempt to control more territory in the Indo-Pacific. These fears drove Australia to have closer ties to the U.S. and an earlier threat.
Morrison said Beijing and the CCP use economic power and military influence that affects not just the Indo-Pacific region but the global and regional order. Such situation exist in the 1930s and 1940s that preceded the Second World.
China fears an encounter with any U.S. warship and the recent carrier exercises are pushing the CCP who may not accept the consequences of starting anything. The Australian Defense Force is not ready and capable as the 7th Fleet with more aircraft and air defense assets to stop CCP missiles and planes.