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First time ever, Chinese fighter jets buzz Canadian warship in international waters

China's People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 jet. (Dmitriy Pichugin/Wikimedia)
July 02, 2019

Two Chinese fighter jets flew closely to a Canadian warship in the East China Sea last week, officials confirmed.

Two of China’s People’s Liberation Army Su-30 fighter jets flew within 300 meters of Canadian ships HMCS Regina and MV Asterix, flying so closely they were just 30 meters above the water, CBC reported last week.

“This particular fly-past by the two PLA aircraft was not provocative, hazardous or unexpected, given the proximity of the Operation Neon operating area to China,” Canada’s Department of National Defense spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier told CBC.

“During her deployment, HMCS Regina was shadowed by a number of different ships and saw aircraft while in the East China Sea,” Le Bouthillier said.

Operation Neon refers a United Nations mission to cycle warships in the Far East to aid in sanction enforcement against North Korea.

“The Chinese and Taiwanese forces that were seen nearby during our transit were not unexpected — they are known to be present in the strait. Nothing in the interactions between vessels or radio communications was unsafe or unprofessional,” Le Bouthillier added.

It was the first ever close encounter between a Chinese aircraft and a Canadian warship.

“This was not a dangerous scenario but it is one that we certainly paid close attention to,” Regina’s captain, Cmdr. Jake French, said according to the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “I will not characterize their intent, but we have seen a lot of ‘fast air’ over the past week flying from where many of their bases are.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said the fighter jets were monitoring the Canadian ships.

“We were clear about the transit of Canadian vessels through the Taiwan Strait and monitored the vessels for the whole process,” Ren said, according to CNN.

The incident comes some nine months after the last Canadian ship entered the contested waters. HMCS Calgary traversed the region in October 2018.

Chinese fighter jets also buzzed a Canadian CP-140 surveillance plane last year as it flew in international airspace observing key shipping routes to ensure cargo ships and tankers were not violating sanctions on North Korea.

It’s common for Chinese fighter jets to buzz aircraft and vessels nearing the waters they claim as their territory.