China has accused Australia of trying to “deflect public attention” from alleged war crimes by Australian solders in Afghanistan.
The comments came a day after Canberra demanded Beijing apologise for tweeting a fake image depicting an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child.
Beijing also said that Australia was trying to “blame China for the worsening of bilateral ties”.
Relations between the two nations have plummeted to a new low in recent days.
The tweet with the fake image was in response to an Australian Defence Force inquiry which said it found “credible information” that 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013.
The findings, now under police investigation, triggered global condemnation.
The doctored image triggered furious reactions in Canberra. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing should be “utterly ashamed” for sharing the “repugnant” image, demanding an apology from China the same day.
On Tuesday the Chinese Embassy in Australia attacked his remarks without offering an apology.
“The accusations made are simply to serve two purposes. One is to deflect public attention from the horrible atrocities by certain Australian soldiers. The other is to blame China for the worsening of bilateral ties. There may be another attempt to stoke domestic nationalism,” it said in a statement.
Australia and China are big trading partners but have disagreed on a number of important political issues
“It’s our advice that the Australian side face up to the crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, hold those perpetrators accountable and bring justice to the victims,” the statement added.
Bilateral relations between China and Australia have been deeply strained this year after Canberra led calls for a probe into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A few months ago the last two correspondents working for Australian media in China were evacuated on the advice of diplomats.
More recently two Australian academics were banned from entering China.
There have also been ongoing discussions about Beijing’s alleged interference in Australian affairs and economic tensions including trade stoppages and tariffs imposed by China on Canberra, including tariffs of up to 200% on Australian wine.