The Sydney Opera House can be seen as the Chinese naval ship Kunlun Shan departs the Garden Island Naval Base in Sydney, Australia, on Friday. Bianca De Marchi/ Reuters
Three Chinese warships sailed out of Sydney on Friday after an unannounced visit that came amid a tussle for influence between Australia and China in the Pacific.
The show-of-force call by a frigate, supply ship and amphibious warfare vessel was planned but never announced by Canberra.
“That raised a lot of hackles,” John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday.
“The ships arrived off Darling Point and other famous places in Sydney's harbour without people knowing in advance ... and with armed soldiers and sailors on the decks of the ships looking fairly aggressive.”
They left for China under leaden skies in the early afternoon.
The warships had arrived on the eve of the 30th anniversary of China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Photos showed members of the Chinese community waiting at the navy wharf where the ships docked to greet the sailors.
“It was a reciprocal visit because Australian naval vessels visited China,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara this week.
“So it may have been a surprise to others, but it certainly wasn't a surprise to the government.”
Ties between Australia and China hit a low last year when Canberra passed laws aimed at thwarting Chinese influence in domestic affairs and also over China's assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.
Australia has offered diplomatic support to US “freedom of navigation” voyages through the South China Sea.
Australians enjoying a sunny winter morning were surprised by the sight of three Chinese warships steaming into to Sydney Harbour on Monday, forcing the prime minister to reassure jittery residents.
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An Australian student who went missing in North Korea has been released from detention and has safely left the country, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.
The guests were asked to undergo a COVID-19 tests, and to present the negative result of the test before entering the house.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention, MoHAP, on Saturday said it carried out 77,640 additional COVID-19 tests in the country over the last 24 hours, using the latest testing methods.
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