This comes a day after Canada’s defence minister accused Chinese warplanes of buzzing a Canadian helicopter over international waters in the South China Sea and firing flares at it.
China said a Canadian military helicopter with “unknown intentions” in the South China Sea had violated Chinese and international laws. A spokesman at the ministry said in a statement that the move jeopardised China’s sovereignty and security, and was a “malicious” and “provocative” act with “ulterior motives”.
China’s response was professional and in line with norms, the defence ministry spokesman added.
According to Canadian defence minister Bill Blair, a Chinese jet flew over a Canadian helicopter on October 29, causing it to experience significant turbulence.
Later in the day, another jet launched flares directly in front of the helicopter, forcing it to swerve to avoid being hit.
“These maneuvers put the safety of all personnel involved in unnecessary risk,” he told reporters, saying Ottawa considered the recent actions by Chinese jets to be “significantly unsafe”.
The helicopter and HMCS Ottawa were in the South China Sea as part of US and allied “freedom of navigation” crossings to reinforce the status of the body as an international waterway.
Not the first time
China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea via deploying hundreds of vessels and aircraft to the area, which has led to recent clashes with Philippine and Vietnamese ships, has become a growing concern for Washington and its regional allies.
In mid-October, a Chinese jet had come within five meters (16 feet) of a Canadian surveillance plane taking part in a UN operation to enforce sanctions against North Korea. Beijing said the Canadian plane had violated China’s sovereignty.
In May, the Pentagon said a Chinese fighter jet carried out an “unnecessarily aggressive” maneuver near a US military plane over the South China Sea in international airspace. The encounter followed what Washington calls a recent trend of increasingly dangerous behavior by Chinese military aircraft.
Washington recently accused Beijing of orchestrating a “concerted” campaign of dangerous and provocative air force maneuvers against US military planes flying in international airspace in the region, warning such moves could spark inadvertent conflict between the two powers.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, and has ignored an international court ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.
In early June 2022, concerns about a potentially dangerous increase in Chinese fighter pilot aggression over the Asia-Pacific area were first voiced by the Canadian government.
At the time, there were reports that Chinese fighter pilots had been conducting dangerous interceptions on a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft since December 2021. The Canadian aircraft was reportedly part of a UN mission patrolling over international waters.
Reports in Canadian media at the time suggested Chinese fighter jets had conducted about 60 of these intercepts, more than two dozen of which had been deemed risky.
Detailing how these intercepts were carried out, the reports said that Chinese aircraft frequently flew between 20 and 100 feet from the Canadian plane. This meant that Canadian pilots could even make eye contact with the Chinese pilots, according to a report by The Eurasian Times.
(With inputs from agencies)