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China warns Canada over patrol flights in tense skies

China said Monday that Canada was to blame for close encounters between the two countries' military aircraft near North Korea, calling the Canadian patrol flights "risky and provocative." Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/3b6060f53f82449cec8b906cd512a19a/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
China said Monday that Canada was to blame for close encounters between the two countries' military aircraft near North Korea, calling the Canadian patrol flights "risky and provocative." Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 6 (UPI) -- China on Monday slammed Canada's "risky and provocative" aircraft patrols near North Korea and warned of "serious consequences" in the aftermath of complaints from Ottawa about Beijing's aggressive behavior in the skies.

"Canadian military planes have stepped up reconnaissance and provocations against China under the pretext of implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions, endangering China's national security and endangering the safety of frontline personnel on both sides," Wu Qian, spokesman for China's defense ministry, said in a statement.

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Wu's remarks came after Canada last week accused the Chinese Air Force of harassing its pilots as they conducted patrols in international airspace near North Korea to monitor for U.N. sanctions violations.

Ottawa said that Chinese jets repeatedly buzzed Canadian aircraft, coming so close that the aircrews could see each other and forcing Royal Canadian Air Force pilots to change course to avoid a collision.

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"These interactions are unprofessional and/or put the safety of our RCAF personnel at risk," the Canadian Armed Forces said in a statement, adding that Ottawa had lodged a diplomatic complaint.

Wu, however, said that Canada's operation was "unfriendly and unprofessional" and that China "quickly took powerful, safe and professional measures to deal with it."

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"China urges Canada to face up to the seriousness of the situation, strictly restrain the front-line troops, and refrain from any risky and provocative behavior," Wu said. "Otherwise, all serious consequences that arise will be borne by the Canadian side."

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Canada is not the only country to accuse China of endangering its patrol aircraft in recent days.

On Sunday, Australia said that a Chinese fighter jet intercepted a reconnaissance aircraft on a routine maritime surveillance flight in the South China Sea region late last month.

Beijing has also ratcheted up its military provocations against Taipei over the past several months, with frequent warplane incursions into the self-governing island's Air Defense Identification Zone and combat drills it described as a "solemn warning to the recent U.S.-Taiwan collusion activities."

China's "growing coercion" is amplifying tensions in the region to dangerous levels, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent speech.

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