‘Crossed the line’: China’s new threat against Australia
IN a dramatic escalation of tensions, China's foreign minister has accused Australia of spying, saying the nation has "crossed the line."
Among a series of inflammatory accusations, the government official said Australia was "stealing information and data" and "staging a farce" while "peddling rumours".
It follows Australia revealing massive cyber attacks against it, and increasing trade penalties enforced by China.
While the state-owned Global Times newspaper accused Australia of espionage yesterday, the foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian ramped up the accusations saying that was "just the tip of the iceberg".
"Australia, an important member of the Five Eyes, has been a fervent intelligence gatherer in relevant countries," he said.
"They steal information and data from other countries, jeopardising others' sovereignty and security.
"But they play the part of the victim, peddling rumours and stoking confrontation by staging a farce of the thief crying "stop thief". They have long crossed the line."
Mr Zhao said the Fice Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes Australia, UK and the US, had "long-engaged in cyber espionage, spying and surveillance on foreign governments, companies and individuals in violation of international law".
"The Chinese government has an unshakeable resolve to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests and to oppose interference in China's internal affairs by any external force," he said.
"We urge some people in Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological bias, play fair and upright, and talk less nonsense."
The Chinese foreign minister was essentially levelling accusations China has long faced against Australia.
Foreign policy watchers have suggested China is ramping up its disinformation campaign across the world as it deals with increased domestic issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings has previously said China's increased aggression, which has been seen globally, was about distracting its own citizens' attention away from the Communist Party's mishandling of COVID-19.
But he said the strategy could prove counter-productive as it pushes countries and businesses away, as the cost of working with China grows too high.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning will announced a $1.35 billion commitment to fund cyber security in Australia, after ongoing attacks on state-owned facilities, including hospitals.
The Australian Government has not named China as the suspect behind recent cyber attacks, only saying there were a limited number of state actors who had the capacity to carry them out.
An Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said it was long standing practice not to comment on intelligence matters.
"Australia's intelligence and security agencies are committed to protecting our national security, including the important work of countering the serious threat of foreign interference," she said.
Originally published as 'Crossed the line': China's new threat against Australia