South China Sea: Audio reveals RAAF plane issuing warning to Chinese Navy during ‘freedom of navigation’ flight


A radio recording of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) surveillance plane conducting a freedom-of-navigation flight over the South China Sea has emerged for the first time.

The audio has been published by the BBC following a reporting assignment in the disputed Spratly archipelago.

In the scratchy radio recording, an RAAF pilot is heard speaking to the Chinese Navy.
“We are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights, in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – over.”

The BBC said it recorded the flight audio from a RAAF AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft in the early afternoon on November 25.

According to the BBC, the message was repeated several times by the RAAF pilot, but no response was heard from the Chinese.

China claims most of the South China Sea— where more than $5 trillion of world trade passes through each year— in the face of rival claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Taiwan.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang has said Beijing “resolutely opposes any country using freedom of navigation and overflight as a pretext for harming China’s national sovereignty and security interests”.

To date, the Federal Government has never publicly acknowledged that Australia has conducted a “freedom of navigation” exercise in the contested region.

The Department of Defence in Canberra has been approached for comment.

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