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Chinese fighter jets carried out “dangerous and reckless” interception of a Canadian military plane over international waters, defence minister Bill Blair said.
China on Tuesday blamed the Canadian military plane for “seriously” violating China‘s sovereignty and national security by entering its airspace.
A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said it lodged a protest with Canada after its Lockheed CP-140 Aurora jet travelled thousands of miles to “China‘s doorstep to provoke trouble”.
At least two different Chinese jets intercepted the Canadian plane for several hours during a more than eight-hour-long mission, Global News – whose journalist was on board the aircraft – reported.
The fighter jets of China’s People’s Liberation Army also dropped multiple flares in the path of the Canadian fighter jet, it said.
“I am very concerned about the unprofessional way in which this was done,” Mr Blair said about the incident.
“It was quite frankly dangerous and reckless. And those types of behaviours are not ever acceptable and we will express that to the People’s Republic of China in the most appropriate way,” he continued, but did not give details.
Major general Iain Huddleston told the outlet that Chinese jets became “aggressive” to the extent that the Canadian military would deem it “unsafe”.
“It’s a ramp-up of the aggressiveness that’s really unexpected and unnecessary in the context of the mission that we’re flying,” Major General Huddleston said.
The reported aggressive interaction above the international waters happened shortly after the crew lost touch with their base following a communication glitch.
In response to the allegations, the Chinese foreign ministry called on Ottawa to stop spreading false information and respect objective facts.
“A Canadian CP-140 aircraft illegally intruded into the airspace of Chiwei Yu, an island affiliated to China‘s Diaoyu Islands, seriously violating China‘s sovereignty and threatening China‘s national security,” ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular press briefing in response to a question.
This incident underscores China’s evident frustration with Western military flights in proximity to its coast, even when these operations take place in international airspace. China has been long called out for its actions in the South China Sea with countries accusing Chinese jets of engaging in harassment of military planes from other countries.
In June 2022, the Canadian military accused Chinese warplanes of harassing their warplanes in international airspace after they were repeatedly “buzzed” by Chinese jets at dangerously close distances.
China’s foreign minister, however, accused Ottawa of endangering the Asian country’s national security by ramping up reconnaissance and provocations against China.
The US Indo-Pacific command released a video of the Chinese J-16 fighter involved in the incident, forcing a US RC-135 plane to fly through its wake turbulence – the disturbance caused behind an aircraft as it passes through the air.