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The federal government has confirmed a Chinese vessel spotted off the coast of Australia was in fact a military ship, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it's not an issue.
Speaking to reporters in Adelaide, Morrison said: "They have every right to be there, under international maritime law, just like we have every right to be in the South China Sea."
But there is a 'very serious situation' occurring in the Indo-Pacific, according to the Prime Minister.
"I think the presence of the Chinese Navy, which we were aware of, and they were keeping a close eye on us and we were keeping a close eye on them. The importance of that is to highlight to Australians that there is a very serious situation in the Indo-Pacific.
"I have been saying that for a long time. These things are true. Australia had to be able to stand up, and that requires great strength."
The Yuhengxing spy ship is understood to have entered Australia's 200km exclusive economic zone near Darwin in August and September.
It sailed south as far as Sydney, past several important military areas, before heading to New Zealand.
It is legal for foreign vessels to enter another country's exclusive economic zone, as long as they do not come within 12 nautical miles.
Morrison said it showed 'Australia has to be able to stand up, and that requires great strength'.
"I have been criticised by many for the strong stance I have taken on this issue," he said.
"You need strength to take Australia through a time like this. There is never a time for weakness when it comes to leading a federal government, particularly at a time when you are dealing with these very significant security issues and the economic challenges that we have.
"We are seeing that at large in the South Pacific even now in the Solomons where we have people on the ground right now."
The Dongdaio-class vessel is capable of monitoring communications and radar signals and the electromagnetic spectrum as well as employing other surveillance methods such as optical sensors.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews told Sunrise Australian officials "closely monitored" the ship.
"I can certainly confirm that there was a Chinese military vessel operating off the east coast of Australia that had transited through the Torres Strait," she said.
"Whilst this particular vessel was in our exclusive economic zone and we respect the sovereignty of that particular vessel, we will always respect that level of sovereignty, we do closely monitor any vessel as part of our routine border protection matters," Andrews added.
"Of course we are very conscious of any vessels that are in or are approaching our waters."
No formal complaint or protest will be made about the ship.
Featured Image Credit: Suzanne Long / Alamy Stock Photo
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