China and Canada have accused each other of endangering the peace and stability of the South China Sea, after a series of close encounters between their military aircraft in the disputed waterway.
The latest incident occurred on Sunday, when Chinese fighter jets intercepted a Canadian helicopter twice in a day, according to the Canadian Navy. The helicopter was part of the HMCS Winnipeg, a frigate that is deployed in the Indo-Pacific region as part of Operation Projection, a mission to support regional security and stability.
The Canadian Navy said the Chinese jets endangered the helicopter and violated international law, while the Chinese Defense Ministry accused Canada of jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security.
“The Chinese fighter jets’ actions were provocative and unnecessarily escalated tensions between our two countries,” said Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan in a statement.
“The Canadian side’s actions seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, and seriously damaged the peace and stability of the South China Sea. China firmly opposes this and has lodged solemn representations with the Canadian side,” said Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian in a statement.
The incident comes after CNN revealed that a Chinese warplane fired flares in front of a Canadian helicopter on October 29, which could have resulted in the downing of the aircraft. The Canadian helicopter was conducting anti-submarine warfare operations with a US Navy destroyer in the South China Sea, where China claims almost all of it as its sovereign territory, despite overlapping claims from other countries.
“We have every right to be there. We have every right to exercise with our allies and partners. And we will continue to do so,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a press conference.
The South China Sea is one of the world’s most contested waterways, where China has been building artificial islands and military facilities to assert its claims. The US and its allies have been conducting freedom of navigation operations and joint exercises to challenge China’s actions and uphold the international rules-based order.
“This is a very serious incident. We are concerned about the safety of our personnel and the risk of escalation in a region where tensions are already high,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau in a statement.
“China’s actions are not conducive to maintaining regional peace and stability, and are contrary to the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” said a joint statement by the foreign ministers of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, who form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, a strategic alliance to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.
– China blames Canada for ‘malicious, provocative’ moves after close midair intercepts over South China Sea, CNN, November 6, 2023
– Canada concern over interception of RCAF helicopter in South China Sea, GlobalData, November 6, 2023
– Exclusive: Chinese jet fired flares close to submarine-hunting helicopter in South China Sea, Canadian Navy says, CNN, November 3, 2023
– Canada-China relations hit new low after South China Sea incident, The Globe and Mail, November 4, 2023