China blamed Canada for “malicious and provocative” actions in the South China Sea after its fighter jets intercepted a helicopter over international waters.
The latest incident comes after PLA jets fired flares in front of a Canadian military helicopter last week which Ottawa’s military said could have downed the aircraft.
Maj. Rob Millen, air officer aboard the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Ottawa, said that Chinese Navy J-11 fighters got as close as 100 feet (30 metres) from the Canadian helicopter during two “unsafe” encounters, according to a CNN report.
Friday’s latest incident was deemed “significantly unsafe” while putting “the safety of all personnel involved in unnecessary risk,” according to Canadian Defence Minister Bill Blair.
Canada claims both incidents took place over international waters but China hit back accusing Ottawa of violating its laws and carrying out “malicious and provocative act with ulterior motives”.
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Zhang Xiaogang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defence Ministry, said the Canadian warship’s helicopters flew towards Chinese airspace around the Parcel Islands claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
In a statement posted to the ministry’s website, he said: “China’s People’s Liberation Army organized naval and air forces to conduct identification, verification in accordance with the law and issued multiple warnings.
“However, the Canadian helicopter not only refused to respond but also took provocative actions such as flying at ultra-low altitudes.”
He added: “We urge the Canadian side not to ignore the facts, stop exaggerating and hyping up (the incident), and to strictly restrict the actions of its frontline naval and air forces to prevent accidents at sea and in the air.”
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The news comes amid increased tension over the South China Sea in which multiple countries have various claims in the region.
The US and other allies often operate in the area carrying out freedom of navigation exercises in international waters.
On October 27, Washington said a Chinese fighter jet came within 10 feet of a US B-52 bomber flying over the South China Sea nearly leading to an accident.
The military said: “We are concerned [China’s] pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision.”
Beijing blamed the US for the close call suggesting the flight over the South China Sea was a deliberate provocation by Washington.
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