Canada falsely claims that it is implementing international law when its airplanes are in fact spying on China.
On June 2 the Canadian Globe & Mail reported of a Chinese interdiction of a Canadian reconnaissance aircraft:
Canadian military accuses Chinese warplanes of harassing its patrol aircraft on North Korea sanctions mission
Canada’s military has accused Chinese warplanes of harassing its patrol aircraft as they monitor North Korea sanction evasions, sometimes forcing Canadian planes to divert from their flight paths.On several occasions from April 26 to May 26, aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) approached a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, the Canadian Armed Forces said in a statement on Wednesday.
Such interactions are of concern and of increasing frequency, the Canadian military said, noting that the missions occur during United Nations-approved operations to implement sanctions on North Korea.
The Canadian aircraft were part of Ottawa’s “Operation NEON”, which sees military ships, aircraft and personnel deployed to identify suspected sanctions evasions at sea, including ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and other supplies banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Did the United Nations really give Canada a mission or even a right to identify sanction evasions at high sea or near North Korea? I would find that astonishing.
Four days later the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the incidents. His answers came after China had explained its position:
China’s foreign ministry is warning Canada that provoking Beijing could bring “grave consequences” after the Canadian military last week accused Chinese warplanes of harassing its aircraft, which are monitoring North Korea’s compliance with United Nations sanctions.Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian suggested during a media briefing in Beijing on Monday that these patrols by Canadian and allied aircraft are illegal. “The UN Security Council has never authorized any country to carry out military surveillance in the seas and airspace of other countries in the name of enforcing sanctions,” he told reporters.
Trudeau’s response to that is somewhat muddled:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in response, defended the patrols, which he said are part of a multinational effort to enforce UN sanctions. He warned Beijing that pilots on both sides are in danger of behind hurt or killed by China’s behaviour.“China’s actions are irresponsible and provocative in this case, and we will continue to register strongly that they are putting people at risk while at the same time not respecting decisions by the UN to enforce UN sanctions on North Korea,” he told reporters during a press conference in Ottawa with Chile’s President on Monday.
Chinese fighter pilots have recently stepped up aggressive behaviour against Canadian military aircraft flying in international airspace near North Korea.
A “a multinational effort to enforce UN sanctions” is something different than a “United Nations-approved operations to implement sanctions on North Korea” which the Canadian military claimed.
Since 2019, Canada has from time to time dispatched a naval frigate or long-range patrol aircraft to help monitor ocean approaches to North Korea as part of a multinational approach, with the United States and other allies, to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program. The area under patrol includes the contested East China Sea, above which China established an aircraft defence identification zone in 2013.
The ‘multinational’ behind the effort are the U.S. and its usual proxies. But if that were a UN or UN approved mission China and Russia must have agreed to it at the UN Security Council. They never did.
Still Trudeau insists on the UN smoke screen:
“Canada is participating in a UN mission designed to interdict and intercept and ensure the respect of sanctions on North Korea’s murderous regime,” the Prime Minister said. “Canada continues to stand up for the rule of law. We continue to stand up for multilateralism. We continue to stand up for the principles of the UN Charter.”
I find no news of formal paper that says the UN has ever designed or asked for any such mission.
There are a total of nine UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea. The relevant here is UNSCR 1718 from 2006. In paragraph 8 it asks member countries to implement certain sanctions:
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, and taking measures under its Article 41 …
8. Decides that:(a) All Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of:
[… a list of certain weapon systems and materials.]
That paragraph restricts any measure countries can take with UNSC agreement to territory, nationals or vessels under their control. It does not authorize to do anything to other territories, nationals or to foreign flagged vessels or to act against such vessels at high sea.
Paragraph 8d, which is about financial sanctions, has similar restrictions:
d) All Member States shall, in accordance with their respective legal processes, freeze immediately the funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories at the date of the adoption of this resolution or at any time thereafter, …
UNSC resolution 2094 from 2013 added additional sanctions but included the same territorial restrictions:
11. Decides that Member States shall, in addition to implementing their obligations pursuant to paragraphs 8 (d) and (e) of resolution 1718 (2006), prevent the provision of financial services or the transfer to, through, or from their territory, or to or by their nationals or entities organized under their laws (including branches abroad), or persons or financial institutions in their territory, …
In fact all UNSC resolutions I am aware of, except those few which directly allow for a war, have similar restrictions. Orders or request to UN member countries for implementing sanctions or to take other measure are always restricted to those things or persons the country legally controls. The reasons for that are obvious. It would breach the rights of other countries if the UN would allow Canada or anyone else to interfere outside of their own legal realm.
The Canadian military’s claim that its planes are on a “United Nations-approved operations” is false. There is no UN approval for such operations.
The Canadian Prime Minister’s claim of participating in a “UN mission” is false. There is no such mission with regard to the DPRK.
The Canadian spy planes flying near the Chinese border are not implementing international law. That is simply a subterfuge of their real mission which is in fact spying on China.
Trudeau should be reminded of the 2001 incident near Hainan Island where a Chinese jet collided with a U.S. spy plane which then had to make an emergency landing in China:
The 24 crew members (21 men and 3 women) were detained for 10 days in total, and were released shortly after the U.S. issued the “letter of the two sorries” to the Chinese. The crew was only partially successful in their destruction of classified material, and some of the material they failed to destroy included cryptographic keys, signals intelligence manuals, and the names of National Security Agency employees. Some of the captured computers contained detailed information for processing PROFORMA communications from North Korea, Russia, Vietnam, China and other countries. The plane also carried information on the emitter parameters for U.S.-allied radar systems worldwide. The fact that the United States could track PLAN submarines via signal transmission was also revealed to China.
The U.S. now largely avoids such missions. It instead ordered Canada (and Australia) to do these, passing the risk to them. Pissing off China by making false claims of flying these in support of international law will only up the risk for another serious incident.
Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.
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