By Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) -China should not use a planned visit to Taiwan by Canadian lawmakers as pretext for either military or economic aggression, a spokesperson for Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Wednesday.
China warned on Tuesday it would take “forceful measures” if Canada interfered in Taiwan, after news that a delegation of Canadian parliamentarians was planning to visit the island later this year to explore trade opportunities.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory under its “one-China principle,” objects to foreign politicians visiting the island. Democratically governed Taiwan rejects China’s claims.
Canada, like much of the West, follows a one-China policy that recognizes Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatically, while unofficially it supports Taiwan.
Joly spokesperson Adrien Blanchard said parliamentary associations and friendship groups make travel decisions independently and the Canadian government respects that.
“As we have said before, the travel of parliamentarians should not be used as a pretext for escalation or aggressive military and economic actions,” Blanchard said.
Last week, Canadian Member of Parliament Judy Sgro said members of a Canada-Taiwan parliamentary “friendship group,” which does not receive administrative or financial support from the Canadian parliament, was planning to visit the self-ruled island in October.
“China will take resolute and forceful measures against any country that attempts to interfere with or infringe upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese embassy in Canada said in a statement sent late on Tuesday.
Defying warnings from Beijing, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei earlier this month in what was the highest-level U.S. visit in 25 years.
China responded by staging war games near Taiwan for what it said was stepped-up U.S. support for the island Beijing views as sovereign Chinese territory.
Pelosi’s visit has also brought attention to what were previously routine interactions between the West and Taipei. Canadian lawmakers made regular visits to Taiwan before the coronavirus pandemic brought travels to a halt.
Sgro has said the trip would focus on trade and the lawmakers’ intent was not to disrupt and cause problems for Taiwan or with China. Her office did not respond to request for comment on Wednesday.
“We encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and maintain open lines of communication to prevent misunderstanding,” Blanchard said.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Ismail Shakil Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Sandra Maler)