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Canadian military chiefs accused China of using its warplanes to harass its patrol aircraft while they were monitoring alleged sanctions breaking by North Korea. Beijing warned Ottawa on Monday of the potential for “severe consequences” of any “risky provocation”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded that Canadian planes were taking part in a UN mission.
Canada’s military accused Chinese planes last week of not following international safety norms on a number of occasions and of putting a Canadian crew at risk.
In a statement, the military said Chinese planes tried to divert a Canadian long-range patrol aircraft from its path and the crew had to quickly change direction to avoid a possible collision.
Mr Trudeau slammed China’s actions as “irresponsible and provocative”, adding they were “putting people at risk” while at the same time not respecting decisions by the UN to enforce sanctions on North Korea.
Justin Trudeau has denounced China over a clash between warplanes
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds performs during 2021 Canadian International Air Show in Toronto
Last week, the Canadian leader described the harassment of Canadian warplanes as “extremely troubling”.
Canadian daily National Post reported that Canada’s plane was deployed from April 26 to May 26, joining other countries by watching for fuel transfers between ships at sea which could be helping North Korea evade UN sanctions over its missile and nuclear tests.
It said Chinese ships are suspected of taking part in the transfers.
Beijing’s defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said China’s military had taken reasonable steps to deal with Canada’s actions and made “solemn representations” via diplomatic channels.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he drives after inspecting the troops during a parade in 2019
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
The ministry said in a statement that Canadian military jets have stepped up reconnaissance and “provocations” against China “under the pretext” of implementing UN Security Council resolutions, endangering China’s national security.
Canada’s Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Michael Chong said China’s buzzing of a Canadian Forces plane over international waters was “reckless and unprofessional”.
A rise in tensions between Ottawa and Beijing comes after Canada’s decision in May to ban the use of 5G gear from China’s Huawei Technologies Co. over national security concerns.
That decision was delayed by Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 on behalf of the United States and Beijing’s arrest of two Canadians on spying charges.
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The standoff ended when all three were released in September after US prosecutors reached a deal with Ms Meng.
Meanwhile, Australia’s defence department said on Sunday that Chinese fighter aircraft dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea region in May.
It alleged that a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft was headed off by a Chinese J-16 fighter during “routine maritime surveillance activity” in international airspace on May 26.
The department added: “The intercept resulted in a dangerous manoeuvre which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew.”
Newly elected Labour Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Perth that his government had expressed its concerns to Beijing “through appropriate channels”.
An aerial view of Chinese development on Johnson South Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands
Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said China’s jet flew very close in front of the RAAF jet, releasing a “bundle of chaff” made up of small pieces of aluminium which were sucked into the Australian aircraft’s engine.
Mr Marles told ABC television: “Quite obviously this is very dangerous.”
Canberra has in the past joined Washington in stating that Beijing’s claims around contested islands in the South China Sea do not comply with international law.
The Defence Department said that for decades it had undertaken maritime surveillance in the region and “does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace”.
Relations between Australia and China, which are major trading partners, have been strained recently over growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.
Beijing has sought a regional security deal with Pacific Island nations.
Also in May, a Chinese intelligence ship was tracked off Australia’s west coast within 50 nautical miles of a sensitive defence facility used by Australian, US and allied submarines.
China and Australia traded barbs over an incident in February in which Canberra alleged that one of its maritime patrol aircraft had detected a laser pointed at it from a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel.