The arrival has raised eyebrows in some corners of the Australian Defence community, after Australian navy aircraft were targeted with lasers in the South China Sea. Sources believe Chinese maritime militia vessels were responsible.
The docking of the warships in Sydney comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the Solomon Islands to stave off China’s influence in the Pacific.
Mr Morrison told reporters the visit of the ships had been planned for some time.
“This was an arrangement, a reciprocal visit because Australian naval vessels have visited China,” Mr Morrison said.
“They were returning after a counter drug trafficking operation in the Middle East. That is a further demonstration of the relationship that we have and this had been in train for some time. It may have been a surprise to others but it certainly wasn’t a surprise to the government.”
Mr Morrison said anyone attempting to read anything into the visit and its proximity to the Tiananmen anniversary “could be subject to a bit of overanalysis”.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Mr Morrison announced $250 million in grants over a decade for urgent infrastructure projects in the country, as China attempts to pressure the Solomons to cut ties with Taiwan.
The Solomons is one of a handful of Pacific nations that recognises Taiwan as an independent state, rather than a province of China.
China is urging the Solomons government to realign its diplomatic relationship from Taiwan to Beijing, and to sign up to the multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.
Mr Sogavare said diplomatic relations were a sovereign decision for the Solomon Islands.