Australians have been assured that no spy balloons have been detected flying in our airspace after US President Joe Biden broke his silence on his surveillance row with China.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australian authorities had advised him they had found no aerial surveillance vehicles such as the balloon downed by the US fighter pilots earlier this month.
“But the important point to know is this. We have the capacity to track any such balloon and we have got the capacity to deal with it,” Mr Marles told Today on Friday.
“I think Australians should have confidence about that.”
Mr Marles’ comments came shortly after Mr Biden addressed reporters in Washington on the diplomatic saga that has captured the world’s attention since the US military shot down what it called a Chinese spy balloon over the coast of South Carolina on February 4.
US fighter pilots have downed three unidentified objects since then.
Beijing accused Washington of overreacting to what it said it was a civilian research vehicle blown off course and has since claimed the US has flown balloons into its own airspace, which the US has refuted as false.
In his most substantive remarks since the Chinese balloon was downed, Mr Biden said he would speak with China’s President Xi Jinping following a fortnight of diplomatic tension between the two counties.
Mr Biden said US intelligence officials were still trying to learn about the other three aerial objects: one that was shot down over Alaska, one over Canada and a third over Lake Huron near Michigan.
But he said no information suggested they were linked to the Chinese spy balloon program or were surveillance vehicles from any other countries.
The diplomatic spat between Beijing and Washington comes as Australia makes inroads on repairing its own relationship with China, with trade restrictions starting to lift.
Peter Dutton on Friday morning said Australia had a “good relationship” with China but there would always be tensions between the two nations.
“Australia’s got to stand up for our sovereignty. This government has done that and we can do it in a respectful way,” the Opposition Leader told Today.
Mr Dutton appeared reluctant to endorse former prime minister Scott Morrison’s fresh call for Canberra to sanction Beijing over its treatment of Uyghur minorities.
But Mr Dutton said human rights abuses perpetrated by China should be called out.
Story Credit: news.com.au