OTTAWA (Reuters) - A nonbinding motion by Canada’s Senate calling for an end to Chinese actions in the disputed South China Sea is irresponsible and will “stir up troubles,” a Chinese embassy spokesman said on Wednesday.
The Senate, whose members are not elected, passed the measure 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 that 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.
“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,” Ngo said in a statement.
A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland did not comment directly on the Senate motion, but said Canada remained concerned by regional tensions associated with disputes in the South China Sea.
“It is essential that all states in the region exercise restraint and avoid coercion and actions that will escalate tensions,” the spokesman, Adam Austen, said in an email.
The motion passed Canada’s upper house of parliament 43-28, with six abstentions.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa said in a statement that 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The motion was opposed by a group of independent senators who said it was already out of date when it was introduced two years ago and runs contrary to Canada’s interests in Asia.
Senators are appointed on the advice of the prime minister and can serve until 75. Opinion polls consistently show voters would like to see the Senate abolished or reformed.
Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by David Gregorio and Scott Malone