OTTAWA (Reuters) – A motion by Canada’s unelected Senate calling for an end to Chinese actions in the disputed South China Sea is irresponsible and “stirs up troubles”, a Chinese embassy spokesman said on Wednesday.
The Senate, whose motions are non-binding, passed one on Tuesday condemning China’s “hostile behaviour” in the South China Sea, complicating efforts by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to improve relations with China.
China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion in trade passes annually, has sparked concerns Beijing is seeking to restrict free movement and extend its strategic reach.
Canadian Conservative Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, who sponsored the motion, said he wants Trudeau’s Liberal government to take a lead role in urging all parties in the dispute to recognise international laws and cease all activities that would escalate the dispute.
Ottawa’s position has been to oppose any unilateral actions that escalate tensions and undermine regional stability, including the threat or use of force, large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts, a position reiterated this week at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Toronto.
“The government cannot afford to ignore the emerging realities of the South China Sea disputes. It must take an active role supporting its diplomatic allies working on the path of fairness, respect for freedom of navigation and the rule of law,” Ngo said in a statement.
The Canadian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the motion, which passed Canada’s upper house of parliament 43-28, with six abstentions.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said Ngo was trying to “stir up troubles” in a situation that has been calm.
“This is irresponsible. His purpose is nothing but casting shadows over the China-Canada relations which develop smoothly currently,” the embassy said.
China has repeatedly defended the work, saying it has every right to build on what it considers inherent Chinese territory and that it is building public facilities, like weather stations and typhoon harbours.
The motion was opposed by a group of independent senators led by Yuen Pau Woo, who said it was already out of date when it was introduced two years ago and runs contrary to Canada’s interests in Asia.
(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by David Gregorio)