China’s naval and coast guard ships shadowed a pair of Canadian naval vessels through the South China Sea and Chinese fighter jets buzzed them as they passed east of Shanghai on a mission to monitor illicit trade with North Korea.
The Canadian defense department said the HMCS Regina and the navy’s interim resupply ship MV Asterix arrived in the East China Sea after traveling through international waters from Vietnam.
They were on a mission to monitor activity off the coast of North Korea to ensure the enforcement of United Nations sanctions aimed at compelling Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons programs.
The Canadian ships also passed through the Taiwan Strait that divides mainland China from Taiwan, the self-governing island it claims as its own territory. China’s defense ministry said it monitored the passage of the ships but gave no information about any other actions taken.
The Canadian defense department confirmed the flypast in an emailed statement, saying the incident “was not provocative, hazardous, or unexpected.”
China’s navy, coast guard and maritime militia are a constant presence in the region and it staged a massive fleet review in the area last year featuring its sole operating aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
China considers control of the South China Sea as crucial to its foreign trade routes and aspirations to surpass the U.S. as the dominant military power in the Asia-Pacific region.
It has placed advanced weapons systems on several disputed features in the region, including on seven islands it built by piling sand and concrete on top of coral atolls. Some of those are now equipped with harbors, airstrips, radar and missile stations, expanding China’s ability to monitor and potentially control activity by other militaries in the region. MDT/AP