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 (Aug 24).
China warned on Tuesday that it will take "forceful measures" if Canada interferes in Taiwan, a week after it emerged that a delegation of Canadian parliamentarians was planning to visit the island later this year to explore trade opportunities.
"We urge the Canadian side to abide by the one-China principle and respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Chinese embassy in Canada said in a statement sent late on Tuesday.
"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 said.
China claims Taiwan as its territory under its "one-China principle" and objects to foreign politicians visiting the island. Democratically governed Taiwan rejects China's claims.
Foreign ministry 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.
Members of a Canada-Taiwan parliamentary "friendship group", which does not receive administrative or financial support from the Canadian Parliament, had been planning to visit the self-ruled island in October, Liberal Member of Parliament Judy Sgro said last week.
Ms Sgro said the trip would focus on trade and the lawmakers' intent was not to disrupt and cause problems for Taiwan or with China.
“We encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and maintain open lines of communication to prevent misunderstanding,” Blanchard said.
In a statement, Canada's government said parliamentary associations and friendship groups were independent, and it respected the lawmakers' intent to visit Taiwan.
Canada, like the rest of the West, follows a one-China policy that recognises Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatically, while unofficially it supports Taiwan.
The relationship between China and the West has worsened since US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier this month against Beijing's wishes.
Mrs Pelosi’s visit has also brought attention to what were previously routine interactions between the West and Taipei.