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China accused of 'regularly' intercepting Canadian military aircraft

OTTAWA — China is being accused of having "regularly" intercepted a Canadian military aircraft tasked with enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea.
Members of the Canadian Forces work on a CP140 Aurora surveillance plane at the Canadian Forces base in the Persian Gulf, Sunday, February 19, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

OTTAWA — China is being accused of having "regularly" intercepted a Canadian military aircraft tasked with enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea.

The Department of National Defence confirmed on Wednesday that the intercepts happened on a number of occasions between September and November.

They involved a Canadian CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft flying out of Okinawa, Japan, Canada's latest contribution to a multinational sanctions monitoring effort.

Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier did not provide further details, such as the number of incidents or the specific dates they occurred.

"Canada has been clear in its expectation that all intercepts should be conducted in a safe and professional manner and refrain from impeding lawful operations in international airspace," he said.

In a speech in Halifax earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described "troubling trends" in the Chinese military's activities.

China's advances in the Taiwan Strait were growing "increasingly provocative," he said, and the country's aircraft were flying near Taiwan "in record numbers on a near-daily basis."

"We've seen a sharp increase in the number of dangerous (Chinese) intercepts of U.S. and allied forces — including Canadian aircraft — that were operating lawfully in international airspace over the South and East China Seas," said Austin.

"These troubling trends highlight the imperative of working with our unparalleled network of allies and partners across both the Atlantic and the Pacific to deter aggression."

Austin said the U.S. aims to bolster the defence capabilities of allies in the Indo-Pacific region and help them "become more agile and resilient."

Canada launched an Indo-Pacific strategy earlier this week that included millions of dollars of new funding to boost the Canadian military's presence in the region. 

The strategy envisions Canada maintaining a semi-permanent naval footprint in the area while laying the groundwork for closer military co-operation and collaboration with allies.

Two Canadian frigates deployed to the region in June are now on their way home. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

Lee Berthiaume and Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

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