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Canadian military plane subjected to 'unsafe' Chinese intercepts, DND says

A Canadian military patrol plane was repeatedly intercepted by Chinese military aircraft while deployed to the Indo-Pacific region last month, just as Defence Minister Anita Anand was preparing to announce a significant increase to Canada's military presence in the region.

The intercepts, some of which were described as dangerous by the Department of National Defence, mark at least the second such cluster of interactions between the two countries' air forces since the fall.

The recent interactions between the Canadian maritime patrol plane and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force mostly "took place in a safe and professional manner," a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said Monday, "however, some were deemed unsafe."

National Defence initially refused to confirm the intercepts in mid-May, citing security concerns as the CP-140 Aurora patrol plane, which had been deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan, was still operating in the region.

But in a statement to CTV News on Saturday, the department confirmed the Chinese had intercepted the Canadian plane as it flew more than a dozen sorties as part of a multinational mission to enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

"When interactions are deemed unsafe, Canada addresses them directly with China through the appropriate channels," a National Defence spokesperson said.

The Chinese defence ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CTV News.

The confirmation of the intercepts came on the same day that a Chinese navy vessel cut across the path of an American destroyer and a Canadian frigate in the Taiwan Strait, forcing the U.S. vessel to slow down to avoid a collision.

The U.S. military says the incident occurred as the USS Chung-Hoon and HMCS Montreal were conducting a so-called "freedom of navigation" transit in the strait between Taiwan and mainland China.

A statement Saturday from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command says the Chinese guided-missile destroyer overtook the U.S. ship, crossing its bow at 150 yards and forcing it to slow to 10 knots to avoid a collision, in violation of maritime rules for safe passage in international waters.

The interaction occurred as Canada's defence minister was in Singapore announcing a new military operation to replace the Asia-Pacific portion of Canada's existing Operation Projection.

The new Operation Horizon will see one additional warship deployed to the Indo-Pacific region from Canada's West Coast, starting this summer.

Canada will also increase its participation in international exercises and strengthen its relationships with regional security partners, Anand said.

"As we forge ahead with a strong, multidimensional approach [in] this important region, we will challenge China when we ought to, and we will cooperate when we can," National Defence said in a news release concluding the Singapore trip on Saturday.

"We will continue to work alongside allies and partners in the region to promote a stable, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific."

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