Politics

China's live-fire exercises off Taiwan an 'unnecessary escalation,' defence minister says

Canada's defence minister says there's no justification for the Chinese military's live-fire exercises off Taiwan. Anita Anand says it's an "unnecessary escalation" following the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island.

Chinese missiles landed in the ocean near Taiwan's coast during exercises this week

A woman passes in front of a large screen showing a news broadcast about China's military exercises encircling Taiwan, in Beijing on August 4, 2022. (Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

China's live-fire exercises off the coast of Taiwan has been an "unnecessary escalation," according to Canada's defence minister.

Anita Anand made the comments on CBC's Radio's The House this weekend and the remarks came one day after Beijing announced it was ending all contact with the United States on major issues — including climate cooperation.

"We are concerned by threatening actions by China," Anand said in a feature interview.

"There is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait."

The response by Beijing to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan has gone beyond simple retaliation, she added.

"It is routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally, and China's escalatory 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 to resolve cross-strait differences by peaceful means."

That doesn't look like it will happen anytime soon.

Minister of Defence Anita Anand is urging China to resolve its issues related to Taiwan peacefully. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Over the last few days, China dispatched more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships as a show of force off Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

The country's strategic rocket forces also lobbed ballistic missiles over the island and into the Pacific Ocean as a further display of outrage. 

Officials in Beijing said Friday they also plan to sanction Pelosi personally.

Defence Minister Anita Anand talks with guest host Murray Brewster about Canada’s ongoing support for Ukraine and its pledges to arm and train the beleaguered country’s military.

Jonathan Berkshire Miller, an Asia-Pacific expert at the Ottawa-based MacDonald-Laurier Institute, said he believes China's reaction has been over-the-top, but the message is intended for domestic audiences as much as it is for the international community.

The country's Communist party will hold a major congress this fall and President Xi Jinping cannot afford to look weak on Taiwan — a consideration that he says must have been on the minds of senior U.S. officials beforehand.

"I think that the United States ... was reading the tea leaves beforehand," said Miller "You could see the Biden administration ... first privately and then publicly, cautioning against such a visit."

Even still, Miller said, this isn't the first time a U.S. House speaker has visited the island, and that 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 far south of Japan's main islands.

That, Miller said, was a message to all of the U.S. allies in the region.

China summons Canadian diplomat in Beijing

China's foreign ministry this week summoned Canada's top diplomat in Beijing — chargé d'affaires Jim Nickel — for a dressing down after G7 foreign ministers issued a condemnation of 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, wouldn't say whether Ottawa had summoned China's ambassador to deliver a response on behalf of Beijing.

Anand said the government is fully engaged in the simmering crisis. 

"We are eyes wide open on China," said Anand. "We will continue to work towards the safety and security of that region."

Canada has two frigates — HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Vancouver — operating with allies in the Pacific. Both warships are headed to Asia in a preplanned deployment following their participation in a large-scale, U.S.-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 of the ruling Communist Party. But the statements have grown more stringent over the last several years.

Taiwan split away from the mainland at the conclusion of the country's civil war in 1949.

Residents in Taiwan overwhelmingly favour the status quo of de facto independence and reject China's demands for re-unification.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

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.

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