China’s live-fire exercises off Taiwan have been an “unnecessary escalation”, according to Canada’s defense minister.
Anita Anand made the comments on CBC radio The House this weekend and the remarks came a day after Beijing announced it was ending all contact with the United States on major issues, including climate cooperation.
“We are concerned about China’s threatening actions,” Anand said in an interview.
“There is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.”
Beijing’s response to US President Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan went beyond mere retaliation, she added.
“It is common for lawmakers in our countries to travel overseas, and China’s escalating response simply risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region,” Anand said.
“We call on China not to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the region and resolve cross-strait disputes through peaceful means.”
It doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
Over the past few days, China has sent more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships as a show of force off the coast of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.
The country’s strategic rocket forces also launched ballistic missiles over the island and into the Pacific Ocean as a further show of outrage.
Officials in Beijing said Friday they also plan to personally sanction Pelosi.
Jonathan Berkshire Miller, an Asia-Pacific expert at the MacDonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, said he thought China’s reaction had been overdone, but the message was as much for domestic audiences than to the international community.
The country’s Communist Party will hold a major congress this fall and President Xi Jinping cannot afford to appear weak in Taiwan – a consideration he says must have been on the minds of senior US officials beforehand.
“I think the United States … was reading the tea leaves ahead of time,” Miller said. “You could see the Biden administration…first privately and then publicly, warning against such a visit.”
Even still, Miller said, this is not the first time a speaker from the US House of Representatives has visited the island and Beijing may have been looking for a pretext to change the status quo in the region.
Beyond Taiwan, five of the missiles fired by China landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Hateruma, an island at the southernmost point of Japan’s main islands.
This, Miller said, was a message to all US allies in the region.
China summons Canadian diplomat to Beijing
China’s foreign ministry this week summoned Canada’s top diplomat to Beijing – Chargé d’Affaires Jim Nickel – for a fancy dress after G7 foreign ministers condemned China’s actions.
Speaking on Friday, China’s vice foreign minister urged Canada to “immediately correct its mistakes”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mélanie Joly, would not say whether Ottawa had summoned the Chinese ambassador to deliver a response on Beijing’s behalf.
Anand said the government was fully engaged in the simmering crisis.
“We have our eyes wide open on China,” Anand said. “We will continue to work for the safety and security of this region.”
Canada has two frigates — HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Vancouver — operating with allies in the Pacific. The two warships are heading to Asia on a planned deployment following their participation in a large-scale US-led military exercise near Hawaii.
China’s insistence that Taiwan is its territory and its threat to use force to reclaim the island have been a repeated refrain from the ruling Communist Party. But the declarations have become stricter in recent years.
Taiwan broke away from the mainland at the end of the country’s civil war in 1949.
Taiwan residents overwhelmingly support the status quo of de facto independence and reject demands for reunification with China.