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Chinese intelligence ship approaches Qld coast

Chinese intelligence ship approaches Qld coast

The ADF is monitoring a PLA Navy vessel approaching Australia’s east coast ahead of Exercise Talisman Sabre.

The ADF is monitoring a PLA Navy vessel approaching Australia’s east coast ahead of Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Defence has confirmed that a People’s Liberation Army (Navy) General Intelligence Ship, Tianguanxing, is sailing towards Australia’s east coast via the Torres Strait.

The ship’s approach coincides with the commencement of Exercise Talisman Sabre – the largest bilateral combined training activity between the ADF and United States military, involving approximately 17,000 personnel.


Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has acknowledged China’s right to exercise lawful freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters, but stressed it would continue monitoring the Chinese vessel’s activity.

“We have been monitoring its approach to Australia for several days as part of Australia’s broader surveillance effort,” he told Defence Connect.  

“We fully expected a ship of this class to arrive in our region during the exercise and have planned for its presence, as we do for every iteration.”

Minister Dutton said the presence of similar vessels during previous iterations of Exercise Talisman Sabre in 2017 and 2019 did not impede activities, adding he is confident the PLA intelligence vessel would not disrupt TS21.   

TS21 is expected to involve a field training exercise incorporating force preparation (logistic) activities, amphibious landings, ground force manoeuvre, urban operations, air combat and maritime operations.

Other nations joining the exercise include the UK, Canada and New Zealand, and observer nations France and India.

Most of the international forces will take part exclusively offshore, with 5,000 personnel participating as part of a United States Navy Expeditionary Strike Group.

Defence bases and a range of training areas across central and northeast Queensland will host the exercises.

Commander of the ADF’s Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, Major General Jake Ellwood, noted the importance of the exercise following its launch from RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.

“Exercise Talisman Sabre reflects the strength of the Australia-US Alliance and the close and enduring nature of our military-to-military relationship,” he said.

“It is a powerful demonstration of the breadth and depth of the Alliance, which includes strong people-to-people links, world-leading capability innovation, and highly interoperable forces.”

MAJGEN Ellwood added, “Overall, these exercises provide an outstanding opportunity to develop broader interoperability with our friends, partners and allies – both in the region and further afield.”

The exercise will run over the coming weeks, wrapping up on 31 July.

[Related: ADF and US partners undertake Exercise Talisman Sabre]

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

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