By: Mike Yeo
ROCKHAMPTON, Australia — The high-end warfare being practiced by U.S. and Australian forces at a major exercise in Australia has attracted an unwanted visitor in the form of a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has reported that a People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, Type 815 (Dongdiao-class electronic surveillance ship) was sighted in waters off the Australian state of Queensland where Exercise Talisman Saber is being held. Australia’s Department of Defence subsequently confirmed that the ship, which it calls an auxiliary general intelligence vessel, “has remained outside Australia’s territorial waters but inside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Coral Sea.”
The agency added that “the vessel’s presence has not detracted from the Exercise objectives,” with senior officers at the exercise remaining equally sanguine about the vessel’s presence. The maritime component commander at the exercise, Royal Australian Navy Commodore Mal Wise, observed that “we subscribe as the U.S. does to the freedom of the global commons and rules-based global order, and as long as they’re operating within that construct,” Australia has no objections.
Talisman Saber is a biennial U.S. and Australian exercise designed to improve combat readiness and interoperability between both forces in planning and conducting combined task force operations. This year’s exercise saw 33,000 personnel participate, and included smaller contingents from New Zealand, Japan and Canada, with the bulk of activity taking place on and in the vicinity of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in central Queensland.
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