Chinese warships arrive in Sydney Harbor on Australian stopover

Three Chinese warships have pulled into Australia’s Sydney Harbor for a short stopover.

A People’s Liberation Army supply vessel, a frigate and an amphibious vessel docked at the Garden Island naval base on Monday morning, according to CNN affiliate 7 News.

Although the visit was not publicly announced, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said plans for the stopover had been in place for “some time.” The media is often invited in for an official welcome, but this time no cameras were allowed inside.

“It may have been a surprise to others but it certainly wasn’t a surprise to the government,” Morrison told reporters in the Solomon Islands, according to CNN affiliate SBS.

“Australian naval vessels have visited China. This was a program of a reciprocal visit. That is a further demonstration of the relationship that we have.”

A spokeswoman for Australia’s Department of Defense said the vessels would be in Sydney until Friday as part of a “routine port visit.”

“This is one of many port visits to Australia by foreign military vessels that Defense facilitates each year,” the spokeswoman said. “The Australian government is committed to maintaining a long-term constructive relationship with China, founded on shared interests and mutual respect.”

The spokeswoman said navies made port visits to undertake basic logistics and resupply activities, and to give crews a chance to rest.

The vessels — which have about 730 sailors on board — were previously involved in anti-piracy operations off the African coast.

Chinese warships have sailed in Sydney Harbor before, including in 2013 and in 2010. In late April, a Royal Australian Navy warship visited Qingdao, on China’s eastern coast.