Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly called for calm in the face of escalating tensions between the United States, Taiwan and China on Wednesday, even as she laid responsibility for the current standoff firmly at Beijing’s feet.
Appearing alongside her German counterpart during a news conference in Montreal, Joly said the federal government was “very preoccupied by the threatening action that China is taking, and their economic coercion.”
The comments followed China’s announcement of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan starting Thursday in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, which Beijing claims as its territory.
They also come as two Canadian warships are preparing to head to the Asia-Pacific region in the next few days on a preplanned deployment following their participation in a large-scale, U.S.-led military exercise near Hawaii.
Joly told reporters that visits such as Pelosi’s are a normal part of diplomacy, and “cannot be used as a justification for heightened tensions or a pretext” for aggressive action.
“So in that sense, we call on China to de-escalate because we think that there may be risks of not only heightened tensions, but also destabilizing the region,” she said.
German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock echoed Joly’s call for calm and peaceful dialogue across the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China from Taiwan.
The two joined other foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations, which include Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S., in later releasing a statement warning China against “aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.”
“We call on China not to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the region, and to resolve cross-Strait differences by peaceful means,” reads the statement.
The G7 ministers added there were no changes to their recognition of the One China policy, which states there is only one Chinese government, does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country and thus does not involve official diplomatic ties with Taipei.
“We reiterate our shared and steadfast commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, act with transparency, and maintain open lines of communication to prevent misunderstanding.”
As Canada and its G7 partners sought to head off armed confrontation between China and Taiwan on Wednesday, thousands of U.S., Canadian and allied military personnel were wrapping up a month-long training exercise in the Pacific.
The Rim of the Pacific Exercise included HMCS Vancouver and Winnipeg, which Canadian Rear-Admiral Christopher Robinson said will sail west toward the Asia-Pacific region in the coming days once the exercise has officially concluded on Thursday.
“One will do sort of the northern part of Asia, the other will do the southern part, and they’ll meet in the middle,” Robinson, who has been serving as second-in-command of the exercise, said in an interview.
“This was really the final stage in preparing them for that lengthy deployment.”
Robinson could not say whether either ship, which will remain in the area until December, would sail through the Taiwan Strait. However, he did confirm that they will be operating with allied task forces in the area.
As for the training exercise, which occurs every two years, Robinson said it featured a variety of different scenarios that include responding to a humanitarian crisis to fighting an all-out conflict.
While the exercise does not identify any specific adversary, Robinson said: “We are very aware of the capabilities that are out there. Various nations have all kinds of advanced capabilities.”
Pelosi defended her visit during a short speech in Taipei before departing Taiwan on Wednesday, saying she and other members of Congress in her delegation showed they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island.
The first U.S. Speaker to visit the island in more than 25 years, Pelosi courted Beijing’s wrath with the trip and set off more than a week of debate over whether it was a good idea after news of it leaked.
China’s response has been loud and has come on multiple fronts: diplomatic, economic and military.
Shortly after Pelosi landed Tuesday night, China announced live-fire drills that reportedly started that night, as well as the four-day exercises starting Thursday.
The planned Chinese exercises, including live fire, are to be the largest aimed at Taiwan since 1995, when China fired missiles in a large-scale exercise to show its displeasure at a visit by then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to the U.S.
Taiwan has decried the exercises, parts of which are to enter its waters, saying they violated the island’s sovereignty.
On Wednesday, China also banned some imports from Taiwan, including citrus fruit and fish.
— With files from The Associated Press.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press