Canada Accuses China of Dangerous Encounters in South China Sea. It has raised concerns about what it deems “unsafe” and “provocative” actions by Chinese fighter jets in the South China Sea. These accusations come in the wake of a troubling incident involving a Canadian military helicopter and Chinese warplanes.
Here’s a summary of the situation:
- The Encounters: On October 29, a Canadian military helicopter had two close encounters with Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy J-11 fighters in international waters within the South China Sea. The fighter jets reportedly approached the Canadian helicopter as close as 100 feet (30 meters), causing significant turbulence and posing a danger to the helicopter.
- Canada’s Response: Canadian officials, including Defense Minister Bill Blair, labeled the Chinese fighter jets’ actions as “significantly unsafe.” They expressed concerns about the safety of all personnel involved, including the Canadian military personnel.
- China’s Reaction: China’s Defense Ministry spokesperson, Zhang Xiaogang, accused Canada of violating Chinese and international laws. Zhang claimed that Canada’s HMCS Ottawa frigate had flown two helicopter sorties with “unknown intentions” near China’s airspace around the disputed Xisha Islands (also known as the Paracel Islands). China further stated that its military had issued multiple warnings, which the Canadian helicopter allegedly ignored.
- Canada’s Version: According to Maj. Rob Millen, who was piloting the Canadian helicopter during the encounters, the helicopter was flying straight and level at 3,000 feet when the Chinese J-11s intercepted it. The helicopter had to descend to 200 feet to disengage from the “unsafe” encounter.
- The South China Sea Dispute: China claims historic jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea, a region rich in resources and a crucial international shipping route. However, this claim is disputed by neighboring countries, including Vietnam and Taiwan. An international tribunal in The Hague ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis for its claims, but China has ignored this ruling.
This is not the first time Canada has accused China of engaging in risky mid-air intercepts. In mid-October, a Chinese fighter jet reportedly came within 16 feet of a Canadian CP-140 reconnaissance and surveillance plane over the East China Sea.
These incidents add to the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, where multiple nations have competing territorial claims. The situation underscores the risks and challenges faced by military personnel from various countries operating in this disputed region.
The South China Sea remains a contentious issue, with Western powers routinely conducting naval passages to assert that it is an international waterway. It’s crucial to note that this information is based on statements from Canadian and Chinese officials, and the true nature of these encounters may be subject to further investigation.