China has accused Canadian military jets of stepping up reconnaissance and “provocations” against the country, with its foreign ministry warning Ottawa of potential “severe consequences”.
China’s defence ministry on Monday said it opposed Canada’s actions, which it said endangered the Asian country’s national security, while the foreign ministry said the air patrol by Canada was unauthorised.
“The UN Security Council has never authorised any country to carry out military surveillance in the seas and airspace of other countries in the name of enforcing sanctions,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
The comments came after Canada last week accused China of harassing its patrol aircraft during United Nations-backed flights to monitor North Korea sanctions evasions.
Wu Qian, spokesman at the Chinese defence ministry, said the Chinese military took reasonable measures to deal with Canada’s actions and has made “solemn representations” via diplomatic channels.
Last week, the Canadian Armed Forces said interactions between Canadian and Chinese aircraft have become more frequent in recent times, accusing Chinese pilots of not “adhere to international air safety norms” and putting the safety of Canadian personnel at risk.
The military said that Chinese planes have at times flown so close they forced Canadian pilots to quickly change course to “avoid a potential collision with the intercepting aircraft”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later said his government took the situation “very seriously”.
“Canada is an active part of an important mission in the North Pacific to ensure that the sanctions applied to North Korea are properly enforced and the fact that China would have chosen to do this is extremely troubling,” Trudeau said.
The friction comes as China and Russia have increasingly called for the easing of sanctions against North Korea on humanitarian grounds.
In May, both countries vetoed a US-led proposal for new sanctions on North Korea after US intelligence said that Pyongyang appeared to be preparing its first nuclear test since 2017.
The Canadian and Chinese militaries have had run-ins before in the region.
In June 2019, two Chinese fighter jets flew close to, or “buzzed”, two Canadian warships in international waters in the East China Sea.
The ships had been shadowed by several Chinese vessels and aircraft as they transited through the disputed maritime region.