Australia denounces Chinese aggression on high seas

The defence minister has lambasted China following a clash with a Filipino ship as an Australian frigate returns home after its own encounter with Beijing's navy.

The Philippines and China are blaming each other for sparking confrontation after successive clashes between vessels in the disputed South China Sea, including water cannoning and ramming. 

Australia shares the concerns expressed by the Philippines government "about a pattern of dangerous actions conducted by Chinese vessels against Philippines vessels and crew in the South China Sea", the foreign affairs department said in a statement. 

Defence Minister Richard Marles
Richard Marles says actions by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea were unsafe and unprofessional

The Philippines had every right to engage in freedom of navigation exercises and sail the high seas unhindered, Defence Minister Richard Marles said. 

"It's absolutely essential that militaries, that navies, engage in manners which are safe and professional - that is not what has occurred," the acting prime minister told reporters in Perth on Wednesday.

Mr Marles welcomed the return of the HMAS Toowoomba to Western Australia after it completed its deployment. 

Divers from the frigate were hit with a Chinese sonar blast, sparking outrage from Canberra. 

"There is risk, that is clear from what has occurred ... but we will not be deterred," Mr Marles said, as he thanked the crew for their service. 

"Their deployment in the region has been a matter of great honour for our country, they have been engaged in upholding the rules-based order within the region in which we live and that is at the heart of our national interest."

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