Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Toowoomba is docked at Changi Naval Base at the warship display during IMDEX Asia 2023, a maritime defense exhibition in Singapore, May 4, 2023. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said a Chinese warship acted in a dangerous and unprofessional manner during an incident with an Australian navy vessel that injured a military diver, his first comments on the matter he said him, damaged the ties.

HMAS Toowoomba – a long-range frigate – was conducting a diving operation in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone on November 14 to remove fishing nets from its propellers when the incident occurred, Defense Minister Richard Marles said in the Saturday.

Albanese, who met briefly with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) in San Francisco last week, was under internal political pressure over whether to raise the issue with the Chinese leader.

In an interview on Monday with Sky News Australia, Albanese said the incident caused injury to one person and shows the need for “communication safeguards” between the military.

“This was dangerous, unsafe and unprofessional on the part of the Chinese warship,” he said.

Albanese said the incident was raised through “all normal channels” but did not reveal whether it was discussed in his private meeting with Xi at APEC.

“The consequences of these events are damage to the relationship. And this is certainly a damaging event. And we have made that very clear to China,” she added.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer closed towards HMAS Toowoomba, despite the Australian ship notifying the Chinese warship of a diving operation, and operating its hull-mounted sonar in a way that posed a safety risk, said Marles previously.

Medical assessments revealed minor injuries to divers, likely caused by the destroyer’s sonar, the defense minister added.

Albanese visited China this month, the first Australian leader to do so in seven years, agreeing to restart an annual leaders’ dialogue.

The Chinese embassy in Australia did not respond to a request for comment.

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