In Canada, China, Korean Peninsula, North Korea, Radhika Desai, Republic of Korea, UN

The Canadian forces’ “Snowbirds” perform during the 2021 Canadian International Air Show in Toronto, Canada, September 4, 2021. /VCG

By Radhika Desai

Published on CGTN, June 7, 2022

In early June, the Royal Canadian Armed Forces complained that People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) warplanes harassed its long-range patrol aircraft several times between April 26 and May 26 when the latter were part of Operation Neon, ‘Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea’. The CAF complained that ‘PLAAF aircraft were ‘unprofessional and/or put the safety of our RCAF personnel at risk’ and forced Canadian aircrew to quickly change their flight path to avoid collision. Beijing sources, for their part, claim that the PLAAF merely dealt with Canadian provocations.
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This is a modified version of the article that appeared in the CGTN

In early June, the Royal Canadian Armed Forces complained that People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) warplanes harassed its long-range patrol aircraft several times between April 26 and May 26 when the latter were part of Operation Neon, ‘Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea’. The CAF complained that ‘PLAAF aircraft were ‘unprofessional and/or put the safety of our RCAF personnel at risk’ and forced Canadian aircrew to quickly change their flight path to avoid collision. Beijing sources, for their part, claim that the PLAAF merely dealt with Canadian provocations.

Chinese sources also ask what Canada is really doing so far away from home in the name of the United Nations and one might add, what is this mysterious ‘coordinated multinational effort’ to support sanctions? The answers are not particularly attractive.

These developments add to the already long list of incidents that have punctuated the deterioration of relations between China and Canada since Donald Trump became US President. They include the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Canada’s baseless allegations of ‘genocide’ in  Xinjiang and the Canada’s recent move to join the rest of its Five Eyes partners in banning Huawei and ZTE from its 5G networks, which, if carried out, would impose great costs on Canadian telecom operators. These developments are detrimental to the interests of most Canadians and to the East Asian region.

A U.S. Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) firing a missile from an undisclosed location on South Korea’s east coast during a live-fire exercise aimed to counter Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s missile test, May 25, 2022. /VCG

Not only would Canadians benefit from mutually beneficial relations with China, many of its business people are eager to deepen them. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first years in office reflected this goodwill with deepening trade ties and even talk of a bilateral extradition treaty and extending to Chinese firms the right to sue governments. However, the Trump administration’s hostility to China soon opened a new chapter in hostility, particularly with the US Mexico Canada trade deal’s provision that members must notify the US if they intend ‘to enter trade talks with a non-market economy.’ This has tied Canada to the US’s agenda to stall China’s rise and restore US centrality in the world economy, an agenda that President Biden pursues with equal if not greater gusto.

It is, however, a futile enterprise and it is not clear that Canadians are behind it: as late as the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, John MacCallum, Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, was hoping for an amicable solution, though the Trudeau government was sufficiently tied to the US agenda to sack him for expressing this hope.

Canada’s participation in the US enterprise has not only led to its gung-ho involvement in Ukraine, complete with commitments to increase military expenditure and provocations to ereate enmities where none existed, as with Russia over Ukraine.

As President Biden ratchets up his rhetoric against China – most recently in his statements about the US willingness to come to Taipei’s military aid in any confrontation with China – in China’s neighbourhood, Canada is engaging in analogous behaviour in East Asia.

Operation Neon is part of the recent ‘revitalization’ of the once obscure United Nations Command that monitored the 1953 armistice undertaken by the US, drawing in allies – its Five Eyes English-speaking partners along with Japan, Germany and France. Its aim is to counter South Korea’s push to regain its sovereignty and its wartime operational control of troops in the country. “The main reason behind the UNC revitalisation efforts is the envisioned transfer of operational control to Seoul around 2023” a 2018 Financial Times quoted a former policy adviser to the South Korean minister of defence. If this is how the US treats one ally, others, like Canada, should be wary. The fact is that such actions go against the wishes of large majorities on the Korean peninsula that want peaceful reunification, violates South Korea’s sovereignty Korea and undermines peace in the region.

Worse, the US’s actions are not even primarily concerned with the fate of Koreans but are tied up with its desire to contain China. “It is in the US’s own interest to maintain their influence on the Korean peninsula while keeping China in check,” the same Financial Times report quoted a former South Korean naval commander as saying.

It is clear that since the narrow election victory of Conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol, the progress made in relations between North and South on the peninsula, is threatened. While former President Moon had urged the US to end the war with the North, the President Yoon takes a hard line and the US is emboldened. The US has a long history of using countries as proxies as witnessed most recently in Ukraine. The Canadian government is now aiding the US to do this to South Korea and harming Canadians’ interests in peace and mutually beneficial relations with all countries.

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