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Be very wary: PM's concern over Chinese spy ship off Queensland coast

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia should be concerned and “wary” of a Chinese spy ship set to observe military exercises off Queensland’s coast but insists the vessel has a right to be where it is under international law.

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Defence Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed the Australia military has been monitoring the high-tech intelligence vessel for several days as has made its way towards Queensland.

The ABC is reporting the Chinese navy ship, Tianwangxing, is expected to remain outside Australian territorial waters and observe the Talisman Sabre war games evolving Australian and US forces which begins on Wednesday.

Morrison said the ship was breaking no law.

“What I’m saying is that, you know, they’re allowed to be there and the law says they can be there,” he told Sydney radio.

“The law of the sea, just like the law says, we can be up in the South China Sea. And so we would just simply say that we think the same tolerances and the same appreciation of those international laws should apply.

“And, you know, we’re wary…we’re very wary. But you know, they’re in an area where they’re allowed to be and we know they’re there and we’re keeping a close eye on it.”

China has expelled naval vessels from other countries from the South China Sea, claiming they were “illegally trespassing” into its territorial waters.

The ABC said similar Chinese vessels have observed past Talisman Sabre exercises and did not impede activities.

Asked if he was concerned about the ship’s presence, Morrison said: “Well, we wouldn’t be watching them if we weren’t”.

“Of course we watch them. We’re aware of that. And they’re watching us.”

“So we don’t we don’t raise any issue about that, just like we don’t think any issue should be raised, when whether it’s us, or the Americans or the British or the French or anyone else, is sailing through the South China Sea.”

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