China says laser report ‘not consistent with the facts’

BEIJING (AP) — China’s defense ministry says a report that Australian navy helicopter pilots were targeted with lasers, apparently coming from Chinese fishing boats, was “not consistent with the facts.”

Spokesman Wu Qian told reporters at a monthly briefing Thursday that Australia should “reflect on itself” before pointing the blame at others.

A witness said the pilots were hit by lasers while exercising in South China Sea waters claimed by China earlier in May, forcing them to land as a precaution.

China maintains a robust maritime militia in the South China Sea composed of fishing vessels equipped to carry out missions just short of combat.

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Similar incidents involving lasers and the Chinese military have also been reported as far away as Djibouti, where the U.S. and China have bases.

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