Head of Canadian navy quietly made visit to China for naval event

The April symposium saw military delegations from 29 countries in attendance, featuring senior naval leaders from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, France, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Head of Canadian navy quietly made visit to China for naval event
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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The head of Canada's navy, Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee visited China late last month as the two countries continue to rebuild frayed diplomatic ties.

Xinhua, a Chinese Communist Party-run media outlet, reported that Topshee attended the 19th Western Pacific Naval Symposium held on April 22 in the port city of Qingdao.

The visit is the first of its kind by a senior Canadian military officer since 2018 when the relationship between the two countries began to fracture over the arrest of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Their arrest came after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

As of late, tensions have had more to do with revelations surrounding Chinese foreign interference in Canada's 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The April symposium saw military delegations from 29 countries in attendance, featuring senior naval leaders from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, France, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Royal Canadian Navy did not publicize the event, nor the attendance of Topshee and other Canadian officers, reports the Ottawa Citizen.

“Vice-Admiral Topshee’s participation in the WPNS is an important demonstration of Canada’s commitment to multilateralism,” National Defence spokesperson Alex Tetreault said in a statement. “This allows for the continued security of all nations’ access to the high seas, which is vital for continued security and prosperity.”

The Chinese government news agency emphasized Topshee's visit and featured a photograph of him at the symposium.

The U.S. Navy also endorsed the event, highlighting that Admiral Stephen Koehler, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, led the American delegation. The Navy emphasized that the symposium offered naval leaders a platform to engage in discussions on shared maritime concerns.

Tensions between China and Canada remained strained through most of last year, though there are now clearer efforts to bolster what Beijing has called the "current difficult situation," as China vehemently denies any meddling in Canadian elections.

"The fundamental reason why China-Canada relations have fallen into a low point in recent years is that there has been a serious deviation in Canada's perception of China," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Canadian counterpart, Mélanie Joly, in a phone call this past January.

"China is open to contacts and talks," Wang said, according to Reuters. "The two sides should respect each other, engage in dialogue on an equal footing, enhance trust and dispel doubts."

Wang told Joly that his country hopes Canada "will interpret China's domestic and foreign policies objectively, rationally and correctly."

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