A Chinese fighter has conducted a dangerous intercept of a Royal Australian Navy helicopter operating in international waters in support of sanctions against North Korea.

The 4 May incident involved a Chinese fighter dropping flares across the flightpath of a Sikorsky MH-60R operating from HMAS Hobart, according to the Australian Department of Defence (DoD).

MH-60R Royal Australian Navy

Source: Commonwealth of Australia

An MH-60R operating from HMS Hobart in April – this is likely the helicopter intercepted by the Chinese J-10

“This was an unsafe manoeuvre which posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel,” says the DoD.

“While there were no injuries sustained by [Australian Defence Force] personnel or damage caused to the MH-60R helicopter, the safety and well being of our ADF personnel continues to be our utmost priority. Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner.”

The helicopter was working in support of Operation Argos, which seeks to enforce UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

Media reports quote Australian defence minister Richard Marles as saying that the Chinese fighter involved in the incident was a Chengdu J-10 of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

“We’ve made the appropriate diplomatic representations, as you’d expect,” said Albanese on the Today Show radio programme. “We regard this as unprofessional and that it is unacceptable. And we’ve made clear, that view to Beijing, both through Beijing and also through Canberra.”

Chinese aircraft and ships are known for unprofessional, dangerous activities, sometimes involving Australia – a key US ally.

In June 2022, a PLAAF Shenyang J-16 conducted a dangerous intercept of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing P-8A in international airspace over the South China Sea. Beijing, with no justification under international law, claims most of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory.

The 2022 incident saw the fighter drop a cloud of chaff in front of the P-8A, some of which was ingested by the aircraft’s CFM International CFM56 engines.

In February 2022, a Chinese warship used a high-power laser to illuminate an RAAF P-8A over the Makassar Strait, which lies to the north of Australia.

Beijing has also conducted intercepts of aircraft from other nations. In June 2022 a Chinese fighter conducted a dangerous intercept of a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Lockheed CP-140 – Canada’s designation for the P-3 Orion.

At the time of the incident, the RCAF aircraft was, like the Australian MH-60R, operating in support of UN Security Council sanctions again North Korea.

In addition, China routlinely operates sorties of fighters and other military aircraft near the airspace of neighbouring Taiwan.