Canadian frigate passes through Taiwan Strait with U.S. warship amid high tensions

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China ‘firmly opposes’ U.S. lawmakers’ latest visit to Taiwan
WATCH: China 'firmly opposes' U.S. lawmakers' latest visit to Taiwan – Sep 8, 2022

A Canadian frigate has begun a two-month operation to monitor sanctions against North Korea and passed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday.

In a statement, a Department of National Defence spokesperson said HMCS Vancouver is beginning its support of Operation NEON, the mission to help pressure North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs.

“Following port visits in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Manila, Philippines, HMCS Vancouver sailed through the Taiwan Strait along with the USS Higgins, as this was the most direct navigational route,” the spokesperson said. “This sail was done in full accordance with international law.”

“As a Pacific nation, Canada is deeply committed to upholding global stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Defence Minister Anita Anand said in a statement. “Today’s routine Taiwan Strait transit demonstrates our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”

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The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said in a statement that the country closely monitored the passing and was “on alert.”

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“We urge Canada not to make provocations and observe basic norms in international relations including respecting other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in their internal affairs,” the statement read.

The U.S. Navy also confirmed passing through the Taiwan Strait with its guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins in a statement, also calling the transit “routine” and where freedoms of navigation apply.

“The ships transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the statement read.

HMCS Vancouver is the seventh Canadian Armed Forces deployment in Operation NEON since 2018, according to Canada’s Department of Defence. The CAF aims to identify suspected maritime sanction evasions, particularly ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and other commodities banned by the United Nations Security Council. The mission was extended in April 2021 to the end of April 2023.

Operation NEON, though, has caused ire from China in the past. Global News previously reported in June that Chinese jets repeatedly “buzzed” a Canadian surveillance plane on the same mission, with the jets travelling as close as 20 to 100 feet from the Canadian plane, sources in the federal government and military said. It was so close that Canadian pilots could make eye contact with the Chinese pilots and could sometimes see raised middle fingers to the Canadians. Senior Canadian government officials expressed concern over the increasing aggression of Chinese fighter pilots.

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China previously condemned Canadian and U.S. ships passing through the Taiwan Strait a little less than a year ago, saying they were threatening peace and stability in the region. Tension in the area has been high since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a trip to Taiwan in August. She’s the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the region since 1997.

As Pelosi made her visit, China conducted military exercises near the island, which have since continued. Concern has been raised that China may be considering a similar land-grab of Taiwan as Russia has attempted with Ukraine. The U.S. is reportedly considering sanctions against China, and U.S. President Joe Biden recently said U.S. troops would help defend the island if it were invaded, though the White House quickly walked back the comment and referred to the long-standing One China policy it officially upholds that does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

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