China’s live fire drills near Taiwan an ‘unnecessary escalation’, defense minister says

China’s live fire drills off the coast of Taiwan have been an “unnecessary escalation,” Canada’s defense minister said.

Anita Anand made the comments about CBC’s Radios The House this weekend and the comments came a day after Beijing announced it was ending all contact with the United States on key issues, including climate cooperation.

“We are concerned about China’s impending actions,” Anand said in a key interview.

“There is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.”

Beijing’s response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan goes beyond simple retaliation, she added.

“It is routine for lawmakers from our countries to travel internationally, and China’s escalating response threatens to increase tensions and destabilize the region,” Anand said.

“We call on China not to unilaterally change the status quo in the region by force and to resolve the disagreements between the straits peacefully.”

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

Defense Minister Anita Anand urges China to resolve the problems with Taiwan peacefully. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

In recent days, China has sent more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships as a display of strength off the coast of Taiwan, which Beijing says is part of its territory.

The country’s strategic missile forces also launched ballistic missiles over the island and into the Pacific Ocean as a further expression of outrage.

Beijing officials said Friday they also plan to personally punish Pelosi.

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

The country’s communist party is set to hold a major congress this fall, and President Xi Jinping cannot afford to look weak on 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 government…first privately and then publicly, and warned of such a visit.”

Still, Miller said, this isn’t the first time a US House speaker 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 near Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands.

That, Miller said, was a message to all US allies in the region.

China summons Canadian diplomat in Beijing

China’s foreign ministry this week summoned top Canadian diplomat to Beijing – Chargé d’affaires Jim Nickel – for a beating after G7 foreign ministers condemned China’s actions.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister on Friday urged Canada to “correct its mistakes immediately”

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly would not say whether Ottawa summoned the Chinese ambassador to answer on behalf of Beijing.

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

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

Canada has two frigates – HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Vancouver – working with allies in the Pacific. Both warships are headed to Asia in a pre-planned deployment after participating in a large-scale US-led military exercise near Hawaii.

China’s insistence that Taiwan be its territory and its threat to use force to reclaim the island are a repeated refrain from the ruling Communist Party. But the statements have become stricter in recent years.

Taiwan split from the mainland at the end of the Civil War in 1949.

Taiwanese residents overwhelmingly support the status quo of de facto independence and reject China’s demands for reunification.

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