A Canadian surveillance plane conducting a sanctions enforcement patrol was intercepted by Chinese warplanes off the coast of China in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner,” a senior Canadian air force commander said Monday.
The incident happened with two TV news crews aboard
Murray Brewster · CBC News
A Canadian surveillance plane conducting a sanctions enforcement patrol was intercepted Monday by Chinese warplanes off the coast of China in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner,” a senior Canadian air force commander said.
The incident involving the CP-140 Aurora — which was monitoring the shipping lanes of the East China Sea for signs of vessels trying to violate the oil embargo against North Korea — happened while news crews from Radio Canada and Global News were aboard the aircraft.
It took place in full view of Maj.-Gen. Iain Huddleston, the commander of the 1st Air Division, and navy Capt. Rob Watt, Canada’s defence attache to Japan.
WATCH: Chinese warplanes intercept Canadian surveillance plane
‘Very aggressive:’ Chinese warplanes intercept Canadian surveillance plane
Featured VideoMaj.-Gen. Iain Huddleston says Chinese warplanes intercepted a Canadian plane conducting a sanctions enforcement patrol in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner.”
“We’re solidly in international airspace,” Huddleston told reporters while looking out the window of the patrol plane at a Chinese fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles. “That last sequence was an unprofessional intercept … It was very aggressive.”
The Aurora was intercepted several times during its eight hour patrol — something Huddleston says is to be expected, given the proximity to the Chinese coast. The Canadian crew took no issue with the first series of encounters.
But according to the aircraft crew, a Chinese fighter came within five meters of the Canadian surveillance aircraft during the final encounter — and at one point slipped into a position where the Aurora was tucked into the blindspot of the warplane. It also launched multiple flares while flying close to the Aurora.
“We can fly in close formation with other airplanes and be completely safe, but it’s when aircraft aggressively manoeuvre in close proximity to the others that there’s a safety issue,” Huddleston said.
Speaking to reporters later Monday, Defence Minister Bill Blair described the Chinese fighters’ actions as “dangerous and reckless.”
“Those type of behaviours are not ever acceptable, and we will express that to the People’s Republic of China in the most appropriate way,” Blair said.
Since 2018, there have been multiple instances of Chinese fighters harassing the surveillance activities of Canada and other western countries conducting missions to monitor the United Nations economic embargo on North Korea.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.