Canada, China Tiff Continues; After Fighter Jet Incident, Ottawa Says Ready To Challenge ‘Disruptive’ Beijing

Canada is looking to strengthen its security engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. Its foreign ministry has stated unequivocally that it will challenge China if Beijing disrupts the global order.

The Canadian foreign minister, Melanie Joly, made the latest remarks in an interview with Asia Nikkei. Under its Indo-Pacific policy, unveiled on November 27, Canada concentrates on boosting security and expanding regional trade. 

In the next five years, Ottawa has promised to invest approximately 2.3 billion Canadian dollars ($1.71 billion) in promoting Canadian natural resources, strengthening infrastructure, and combating climate change in the region. 

Canada wants to take advantage of Asia’s rapid economic development to boost its economy while strengthening ties with Asian nations to put pressure on Beijing.

Joly, who was in Bucharest for the NATO summit of foreign ministers, stated that Canada is dedicated to playing its part in the Indo-Pacific area. She said that international norms have kept them safe since World War II and must therefore be followed.  

China was described as “an increasingly disruptive global power” in the new policy. Joly endorsed this position, noting that they have observed this evidently in the East and South China Seas and the Taiwan Strait.

“We will challenge China when it comes to respecting international order,” she added. Beijing regards Taiwan as a separate province and claims that freedom of the high seas does not extend to the waterway connecting mainland China and Taiwan. 

Canada has often dispatched frigates through the area alongside US vessels to refute that claim. This comes at a time when China is accused of “regularly” intercepting a Canadian military plane in the Indo-Pacific region. 

The Department of National Defense stated that on November 30, during the “most recent iteration” of Operation Neon, a UN sanctions campaign on North Korea, Chinese military jets “intercepted” a CP-140 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) surveillance plane.

A Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora arrives at 5 Wing Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador on its way to Thule Air Base, Greenland, in 2021. (Canadian NORAD Region)

In June 2022, the EurAsian Times reported that Chinese jets had been regularly “buzzing” a Canadian surveillance plane being utilized for the UN mission. According to Canadian media outlets, there have been about 60 intercepts with Chinese fighter jets since Christmas 2021. 

Chinese jets occasionally fly so closely, according to the CP-140 crews, that Canadian crew members might make eye contact with the Chinese pilots. As a result, Canada assessed more than two dozen of these interceptions as unsafe.

At the same time, the minister made it clear that Canada is prepared to take a flexible approach. Joly mentioned the three areas of cooperation—climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, and pandemic prevention.

She added that Canada and China are collaborating on the COP-15 UN Biodiversity Conference, which will be held in Montreal after previously being held in China. 

Canada Looks At Intelligence Sharing With Japan

Meanwhile, Joly admitted that, for far too long, Canada had not been regarded as a trustworthy partner in the Indo-Pacific. However, Ottawa now looks forward to more diplomatic engagements thanks to its new strategy.

In terms of Ottawa-Tokyo cooperation, Joly stated that Japan is already a “good friend” but that they want Japan to be the “best of friends.” Joly noted that the Kitimat project in British Columbia, in which Japanese businesses have invested, will be “ready” by 2025 and that liquefied natural gas shipments to Japan will grow.

She added that Japan and Canada, which are members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which also includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, can undoubtedly do more in terms of security cooperation. 

Canada Japan MFO
Canada Japan MFO

During her October visit to Japan, she initiated talks toward finalizing an agreement on intelligence sharing, similar to the ones Tokyo has with Washington and London.

Joly failed to provide a firm comment when asked whether Canada would likely join the Quad security alliance, which comprises Australia, Japan, the United States, and India.

However, she emphasized that Canada has a strong connection with these countries and added, “We’re always interested in having a dialogue with these four countries.”

On the other hand, Beijing vehemently criticized Canada’s new strategy, saying it was full of ideological bias and unfounded charges against China, and lodged diplomatic protests with Ottawa. That being said, compared to its tenacious efforts to isolate Russia, Canada has a cautious engagement with China.