The Morrison Government has scuttled media reports that a Chinese naval vessel has sailed into international waters off Central Queensland to spy on joint defence exercises between Australia and the United States.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said information from a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the area where Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 was taking place proved the reports to be “absolutely wrong and misleading”.
“We are always concerned with false reports, especially about alleged spying on defence exercises, because they have the potential to impact on our strong and friendly relationship with China,” Ms Reynolds said.
“I am advised by the Royal Australian Navy that the vessel claimed to be a Chinese Navy spy ship in some media reports was in fact located and photographed by crew on our own naval frigate HMAS Kowtow.
“The photo (main picture) is a bit blurry because it was taken from five kilometres away by HMAS Kowtow’s powerful surveillance camera.
“But it clearly shows the ship in question is not a naval vessel of any nation.
“This has been confirmed by Captain Cato (pictured) on board HMAS Kowtow who has advised that the vessel and its crew are not from the Chinese Navy and are possibly just a fishing boat that’s a little off course.
“I can assure all Australians and our American friends that the integrity and security of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 is beyond reproach,” Ms Reynolds said.