Australia ‘concerned’ about Chinese spy ship off its coast

SYDNEY, May 13 (Reuters) – A Chinese intelligence ship has been tracked off the west coast of Australia 50 nautical miles from a sensitive defense facility, Australia said on Friday, raising concern amid an election campaign over China’s behavior in the region.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Chinese Navy vessel was not in Australian territorial waters, but its presence was “worrying”.

“It’s clearly an intelligence ship and they’re looking at us and we’re keeping an eye on them,” he told reporters.

Australia tracked the spy ship last week as it passed the Harold E Holt naval communications station at Exmouth, which is used by Australian, American and Allied submarines.

China’s embassy in Australia did not respond to a request for comment.

Australia’s Department of Defense said in a statement that the “Dongdiao”-class Auxiliary Intelligence vessel called Haiwangxing traveled along the west coast, crossing Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone on 6 May and arriving within 50 nautical miles of the communications station on 11 May.

The limit of the EEZ is 200 nautical miles from the coast, while the territorial sea is within a limit of 12 nautical miles.

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