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PM questioned about China’s suspected role in Aussie navy divers injuries

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The Australian Government said navy divers were likely injured due to sonar pulses from a Chinese warship.
Australian navy HMAS Toowoomba

The Australian Government has said injuries sustained by Australian Navy divers last week were likely due to sonar pulses from a Chinese warship.

The incident was announced over the weekend after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with China’s President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit. However, it happened several days earlier.

This week the Opposition has questioned whether Albanese raised the incident with President Xi.

What is a sonar pulse?

Sonar stands for Sound Navigation and Ranging. A pulse is a ping, like a phone alert. A military-level underwater ping is quite a lot louder and more forceful than a phone ping.

Military ships use sonar pulses to detect things underwater.

It’s not entirely clear what the effect of these loud pings are on humans, but some marine studies have shown it can cause dizziness and temporary hearing loss.

What happened?

Sonar stands for Sound Navigation and Radiation. A pulse is a ping, like a phone alert. A military-level underwater ping is quite a lot louder and more forceful than a phone ping.

Military ships use sonar pulses to detect things underwater.

It’s not entirely clear what the effect of these loud pings are on humans, but some marine studies have shown it can cause dizziness and temporary hearing loss.

The timeline

14 November: Aussie navy divers suffered injuries in Japanese waters believed to be caused by Chinese sonar pulses.

15-17 November: Anthony Albanese attended a summit in San Francisco where he met with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

18 November: The Government announced news of the navy diver incident.

PM’s comments

Anthony Albanese said Australia raised its objections to China “unequivocally”, but did not confirm if he brought up the incident during talks with China’s leader.

“I don’t talk about private meetings on the sidelines, discussions I have with any world leader,” he told Sky News.

The Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the Chinese Navy’s actions were “unsafe and unprofessional”.

The incident also follows Albanese’s historic visit to China earlier this month.

Opposition

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called Albanese’s response to the incident “startling”, and has urged the PM to confirm whether he raised the matter with Xi Jinping.

“If he didn’t, he’s made a catastrophic mistake and he needs to apologise for it. If he did raise it, he needs to come up with a proper explanation as to why he continues to talk in riddles,” said Dutton.

China’s response

The Chinese Government has denied claims it ignored warnings about the presence of Australian navy divers, calling the accusations “irresponsible”.

“We urge the Australian side to respect the facts,” a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defence said.

Dutton described the response as “propaganda”, and said Australia needed to call out China’s “aggressive behaviour”.

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