Aussies taken by surprise as Chinese warships arrive in Sydney

The sighting of three Chinese warships comes amid heightened concern about Beijing's growing clout in the South Pacific region
The sighting of three Chinese warships comes amid heightened concern about Beijing's growing clout in the South Pacific region

Three Chinese warships pulled into Australia's Sydney Harbour for a four-day stopover, catching locals off-guard as the arrival had not been pre-announced.

A People's Liberation Army supply vessel, a frigate and an amphibious assault ship docked at the Garden Island naval base on Monday, according to Australia's 7News.

Although the visit was not publicly announced, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said plans for the stopover had been in place for "some time." This came after local residents and local media were surprised and confused by the sudden appearance of the small task force.

Observers questioned the Australian Government's assertion that the ships were invited following their return from the Middle East to China.

Morrison was asked whether the arrival of the ships was appropriate given the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Morrison said: "No, I think any reading into timing could be subject to a bit of over-analysis."

China is Australia's most important trading partner and the United States is Australia's most important security ally.

The Solomons already gets the third largest share of Australian aid money after Indonesia then Papua New Guinea, Australia's two nearest neighbours. Morrison's visit to the Solomons is the first by an Australian prime minister since 2008.

Additional reporting from Associated Press