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Australia |  PM accuses Chinese fighter jets of 'unacceptable'

Australia | PM accuses Chinese fighter jets of 'unacceptable'

(Sydney) Australia's prime minister on Tuesday condemned the “unacceptable” behavior of a Chinese warplane in Beijing after it fired flares into the path of an Australian naval helicopter in international waters.

Beijing, for its part, says it reacted “professionally” to ships and planes from Canberra that approached its airspace.

The helicopter was flying over the Yellow Sea on Saturday as part of UN efforts to enforce economic sanctions against North Korea, the Australian Department of Defense said on Monday evening.

The flight was quickly “intercepted” by a Chinese military aircraft firing flares into its flight path, putting it at risk, according to Australia.

“We have made it very clear to China that this is unprofessional and unacceptable,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Australia's Nine Network on Tuesday.

“I think Australians are waiting for an explanation of how this could have happened.”

Mr Albanese said Canberra had raised its concerns through diplomatic and military channels.

Beijing responded on Tuesday afternoon, saying “Australian warships and aircraft deliberately accessed China's airspace and caused trouble”.

“In order to issue a warning, the Chinese military took necessary measures at the scene. The operations in question were conducted legally, professionally and safely,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

“China […] Urges Australia to immediately stop provocations,” he added.

In November, Canberra said a Chinese warship injured Australian Navy divers by deliberately sending sonar pulses.

Beijing's Foreign Ministry insisted that the Chinese military had “always carried out professional operations in accordance with international law”.

Mr Albanese visited China last year and welcomed the restoration of trade and diplomatic ties after years of cold weather.

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But security tensions remain as Australia moves closer to the United States to curb China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.