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

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.

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One of three Chinese warships is seen docked at Garden Island naval base in Sydney on June 3, 2019. - Australians were surprised by the sight of three Chinese warships steaming into to Sydney Harbour, on June 3, 2019 forcing the prime minister to reassure jittery residents. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese warships are seen docked at Garden Island naval base in Sydney on June 3, 2019. - Australians were surprised by the sight of three Chinese warships steaming into to Sydney Harbour, on June 3, 2019 forcing the prime minister to reassure jittery residents. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
Three Chinese warships are seen docked at Garden Island naval base in Sydney on June 3, 2019. - Australians were surprised by the sight of three Chinese warships steaming into to Sydney Harbour, on June 3, 2019 forcing the prime minister to reassure jittery residents. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese Navy nuclear submarine takes part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province April 23, 2009. To match Special Report CHINA-ARMY/NUCLEAR Guang Niu/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Chinese Navy's destroyer Shijiazhuang takes part in a naval parade off the eastern port city of Qingdao, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, China, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
In this May 14, 2019, photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, a Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen while American and Philippine coast guards conduct joint search and rescue and capability-building exercises off South China Sea west of the Philippines. Captain John Driscoll, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750), told reporters Wednesday, May 15, 2019, two Chinese Coast Guard ships were spotted off the South China Sea while they were conducting the joint exercise with Philippine Coast Guard. (Philippine Coast Guard Via AP)
This photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands on April 21, 2017. Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana flew to a disputed South China Sea island on April 21, brushing off a challenge by the Chinese military while asserting Manila's territorial claim to the strategic region. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
FIERY CROSS REEF, SOUTH CHINA SEA - MAY 26, 2018: DigitalGlobe overview imagery of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group. Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the honor guards of the Chinese People’s Liberation (PLA) Navy before boarding the destroyer Xining for the naval parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 23, 2019.
TAIWAN - 29 OCTOBER, 2018: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Taiwan is located between the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. (Photo by Gallo Images / Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentinel Data 2019)
Chinese Navy's amphibious transport dock Yimeng Shan takes part in a naval parade off the eastern port city of Qingdao, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, China, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
TREE ISLAND, SOUTH CHINA SEA - MAY 12, 2018: DigitalGlobe imagery of Tree Island. Tree Island is one of the main islands of the Paracel Islands group in the South China Sea. Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.
Chinese Navy's destroyer Taiyuan takes part in a naval parade off the eastern port city of Qingdao, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, China, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Soldiers stand next to a helicopter on a Chinese Navy's landing ship Wutaishan during a naval parade off the eastern port city of Qingdao to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, China, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
FIERY CROSS REEF, SOUTH CHINA SEA - AUG 15, 2018: DigitalGlobe overview imagery of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group. Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.
FILE PHOTO: Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, which is known in China as the Xisha Islands, January 29, 2016. The words on the rock read, "Xisha Old Dragon". Old Dragon is the local name of a pile of rocks near Woody Island. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
Chinese Navy’s Aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a naval parade off the eastern port city of Qingdao, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, China, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Chinese navy personnel perform at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in Qingdao, China, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
AT SEA, CHINA - MAY 08: Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) members attend the closing ceremony of China-Thailand Joint Naval Training 'Blue Commando-2019' on China's landing ship Wuzhishan on May 8, 2019 at sea, Guangdong Province of China. China and Thailand concluded the week-long joint naval exercise on Wednesday in waters of Shanwei. (Photo by Hu Shanmin/VCG via Getty Images)
QINGDAO, April 23, 2019 -- The honor guards of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy stand in formation before a naval parade staged to mark the 70th founding anniversary of the PLA Navy at a pier in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, on April 23, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Gang) (Xinhua/Li Gang via Getty Images)
QINGDAO, April 22, 2019 -- A joint military music display is held to celebrate the People's Liberation Army Navy's 70th founding anniversary in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, April 22, 2019. The military bands from the navies of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh and India performed at the event. Over 1,200 people, including officers and soldiers of navy vessels from home and abroad and Qingdao citizens, viewed the performance. (Xinhua/Zhu Zheng) (Xinhua/Zhu Zheng via Getty Images)
Sailors stand near fighter jets on the deck of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning as it participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China's PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao, in eastern China's Shandong province on April 23, 2019. - China celebrated the 70th anniversary of its navy by showing off its growing fleet in a sea parade featuring a brand new guided-missile destroyer. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK SCHIEFELBEIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Philippine Navy personnel watch as US Navy's multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS WASP cruises in the background during the Joint US-Philippine Military Exercise flag dubbed "Balikatan 2019" Thursday, April 11, 2019, off San Antonio, Zambales province northwest of Manila, Philippines. The amphibious exercise, facing the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, involves hundreds of Philippine and American troops to hone their skills in "tactics, techniques and procedures." (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
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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

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