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Chinese navy ship targets laser at Australian plane, PM Scott Morrison says it’s intimidation

Australian defence ministry has accused a Chinese navy ship of shining a military grade" laser towards one of its warplanes

The Australian defence ministry has accused a Chinese navy ship of shining a "military grade" laser towards one of its warplanes and endangering the lives of the pilots.

"Acts like this have the potential to endanger lives. We strongly condemn unprofessional and unsafe military conduct," the ministry said.

"I can see it no other way than an act of intimidation," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, terming the act "unwarranted and unprovoked".

Australia's Defence Minister Peter Dutton said  it was "a very aggressive act.”

“I think the Chinese government is hoping that nobody talks about these aggressive bullying acts," Dutton told Sky News on Sunday.

A statement from the Australian defence ministry said the plane targeted was a Boeing P-8A Poseidon – a marine patrol aircraft equipped with weapons systems and sensors for detecting submarines.

It said the ship was one of two Chinese Navy vessels sailing east in the Arafura Sea before passing through the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea, and into the Coral Sea.

"These actions could have endangered the safety and lives of the Australian Defence Force personnel," the ministry said. "Such actions are not in keeping with the standards we expect of professional militaries."

The Chinese authorities have yet to comment.

Relations between the two countries have been strained in recent years over a number of disputes.

Australia has accused Beijing of interfering in its domestic politics, banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from building Australian tech infrastructure and called for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 outbreak at Wuhan in China.

China had criticised a new security alliance between Australia, the UK and the US  (AUKUS) as a risk to regional peace and accused Canberra of intensifying the arms race".

The Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper said at the time Australia had "turned itself into an adversary of China".