Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance told the national broadcaster CBC about an incident involving a CP-140 Aurora and the Chinese Air Force that took place in October amid monitoring fulfilment of the UN Security Council’s sanctions against North Korea.
"We have been interfered with on our flights in the area and been challenged inappropriately in international airspace", the commander said.
He claimed that the Chinese had used improper radio procedure and "inappropriate language". Following the incident, National Defence officials reportedly had "contact with the Chinese Air Force operating" in the region. They insisted that "at no time were our crews or aircraft put at risk".
Vance also claimed that Canada is not the only country that has faced similar harassment by China in the region. Japanese, Australian and New Zealand flights have also reportedly experienced the same badgering. Additionally, Vance said, as cited by CBS, that the allies, including Canada, have had to deal with "a persistent cyber threat that we are relatively well-poised to counter". On top of it all, he said that two of the country’s warships, the HMCS Calgary and the supply ship MV Asterix, which were also taking part in the sanction control patrols, “did not face overt interference”, but it was “made very clear to anybody that's in that region that you're in China".
He reportedly referred to these provocations as "a pattern of behaviour that's inappropriate", impacting freedom of navigation. China has not yet commented on his statements officially.
Ties between Canada and China soured after Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver earlier this month. Meng, who was later released on bail, is accused of fraud for telling the UK-based banking company HSBC that the Chinese tech giant was in full compliance with US sanctions against Iran, whereas one of its subsidiaries was not in compliance with the restrictions.
In their turn, Chinese authorities detained ex-Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and his fellow countryman and businessman Michael Spavor on charges of threatening national security. Later, media reported that a third Canadian citizen had been detained. China's Foreign Ministry has stated that the Canadian national is undergoing "administrative punishment" for working illegally.