A Chinese spy ship spent three weeks circling Australia’s coastline earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has revealed.
While the ship remained outside of Australia’s waters, it is understood to have been collecting intelligence between August and September.
Ms Andrews confirmed the “Chinese military vessel” had operated off the east coast of Australia for three weeks before transiting through the Torres Strait,.
“We are very closely monitoring all vessels that approach Australia,” she said on Sunrise.
“Whilst… we respect the sovereignty of that particular vessel… we are very conscious of any vessel is that are in or approaching our waters.”
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said China’s buildup of military assets was “concerning”.
“China has in its fleet 355 ships and submarines, that goes to 460 within the next nine years or so,” he said on the Today Show.
“It’s a concerning time.”
Mr Dutton said he expected the ship to have collected intelligence and surveyed Australian “attributes”.
“Australia has to be strong and stands up for our values,” he said
“I think it’s right that people have a clear picture of what is going on.”
It comes as Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong called Mr Dutton out for “amping up” conflict with China after he said it was “inconceivable” for Australia not to get involved in a war between China and the democratic island of Taiwan.
But Mr Dutton stood by his comments and lashed Labor for being “weak on national security”.