Tensions between China and Canada have heightened as China accused Canada of carrying out “malicious and provocative” actions in the South China Sea. This accusation comes after the Canadian Navy reported that Chinese fighter jets endangered a Canadian military helicopter in two close intercepts above international waters.
Last week, it was reported that a Chinese warplane fired flares in front of a Canadian military helicopter on October 29. Canadian military officers considered this operation reckless, potentially endangering the aircraft. This incident was the second of two “unsafe” encounters the Canadian chopper had with Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy J-11 fighters on that day. According to Maj. Rob Millen, air officer aboard the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Ottawa, the Chinese jets approached as close as 100 feet (30 metres) from the helicopter.
Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair briefed reporters, condemning the Chinese jets’ actions as “significantly unsafe” and endangering the safety of all personnel involved. Canada maintains that both incidents occurred in international waters within the South China Sea.
China’s Defense Ministry responded on Saturday, accusing Canada of violating Chinese and international laws, jeopardising China’s sovereignty and security, and conducting “malicious and provocative acts with ulterior motives.” Zhang Xiaogang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry, stated that Canada’s HMCS Ottawa frigate flew two helicopter sorties toward China’s airspace around the disputed Xisha Islands, also known as the Paracel Islands, with “unknown intentions.” Despite multiple warnings issued by the Chinese forces, the Canadian helicopter allegedly took provocative actions, flying at ultra-low altitudes.
The South China Sea remains a contentious area, with China asserting historic jurisdiction over the region, a claim rejected by an international tribunal in 2016. Western powers, including Canada, challenge China’s claims by conducting naval passages through the disputed waters, leading to recurring incidents between military aircraft of the involved nations.
International observers closely monitor these developments, emphasising the need for safe and responsible behaviour in the contested South China Sea region.