Australia’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed to UK broadcaster BBC that its warplane was conducting what it described as a routine patrol mission over disputed islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.
The confirmation was made after the BBC intercepted a message that Australia’s P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, flying over the contested land, transmitted to the Chinese Navy forces.
The aircraft referenced the freedom of navigation rights, invoking the international civil aviation convention and the UN convention of the law of the sea.
The Australian military said the maneuvers were aimed at maintaining security in the region where China has territorial disputes with other littoral states – Vietnam and the Philippines.
US bombers conducted “freedom of navigation” flights in the area in November, prompting condemnations from China which regards the islands it claimed as its own using land reclamation.
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