Posted on June 4, 2019
On Monday an army frigate, an auxiliary replenishment ship and an amphibious vessel from the People’s Liberation Army were docking at Garden Island for a four-day stopover.
It comes on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and only a week after reports of Chinese military tailing Australian navy vessels transiting through the South China Sea.
Speaking in the Solomon Islands, the prime minister said the government had “known about that for some time”. “This was an arrangement, a reciprocal visit because Australian naval vessels have visited China,” he said. “They were returning after a counter drug-trafficking operation in the Middle East. That is a further demonstration of the relationship that we have and this had been in train for some time. It may have been a surprise to others but it certainly wasn’t a surprise to the government.”
Asked whether the arrival of the ships was appropriate given the anniversary of the massacre, Morrison said: “No, I think any reading into timing could be subject to a bit of over-analysis.”
In the lead up to the anniversary, a Chinese government minister defended the bloody crackdown on student protesters, with the defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, telling a regional security forum in Singapore on Sunday it was the “correct” policy. Morrison said the country’s rare acknowledgement of the event was “not a new position”, but said Australia would “express its views through the foreign minister on that matter” in the coming days.