The Australian Border Force (AFB) has confirmed it has been tracking a Chinese vessel for the past two months as it conducted deepwater research from eastern China to Western Australia. The ship identified as Xiang Yang Hong 01 has travelled more than 200 miles from the Java Sea to the Australian territory of Christmas Island. The Java Sea is an extension of the Indian Ocean and is one of the busiest shipping routes in Asia.
The Australian territory of Christmas Island is located 1,616 miles north west of Perth and is known for its rich waterways.
The route through the Pacific Ocean is one regularly used by Australian submarines transporting goods through the disputed South China Sea.
The Xiang Yang Hong 01 has been strategically anchored in international waters off a key naval base used by Australian and US submarines.
The team at the Harold E Holt base are responsible for providing Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio transmissions between the two nations.
The base, which is located four miles from the town of Exmouth in Western Australia, is also there to provide operational, maintenance and support services.
The Australian Border Force (AFB) confirmed it was made aware of the Chinese vessel and it did not enter Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ).
An ABF spokesman said: “The Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Defence are aware that a Chinese oceanographic ship Xiang Yang Hong 01 was operating off the coast of Western Australia.
“The vessel did not enter the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ) other than for a direct transit through the AEEZ when transiting past Christmas Island.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the ship was operating in the region for scientific purposes and did not break any international rules.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the increase in funding “plays an incredibly important role in Australia’s efforts to ensure a stable and secure Indo-Pacific, working particularly with our partners in the US”.
Mr Morrison stated the decision to accelerate investment in the site was promoted following talks with US officials in 2019.
He said: “When I was in the US last year and was with the president and was meeting with the Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and the secretary of state and many others.
“I was so proud that we can say unreservedly that Australia holds up its end when it comes to our defence commitments and the role we play in our part of the world.”