Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters on Thursday that China was not Canada’s adversary and that it was time for the two countries to work together on various issues.
“We don’t consider China as an adversary but you can’t at the same time look at it and have this discussion in one package,” said Sajjan referencing China’s arbitrary detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
“This is a time for us to be able to work together and to be able to come up with those solutions.”
Sajjan, who was recently reappointed to the cabinet position, was speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum when he made the comments.
Earlier this month, former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Richard Fadden claimed that Canada should see Russia and China as threats.
“[We should] recognize our adversaries for what they are, recognize we have to deal with them, but draw clear limits to what we will accept,” advised Fadden.
China has threatened Canada with “grave consequences” in the past over the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for breaking U.S. sanctions on Iran. In retaliation, China detained two Canadians. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig remain in a Chinese prison on trumped-up charges.
Former Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye accused Canada of white supremacy when Canada called for the release of the two Canadians.
In June, two Chinese fighter jets flew aggressively close to Canadian warships in the East China sea.
Most recently, Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu warned the Canadian government that sanctions on Hong Kong officials will hurt Canada-China relations.
Currently, Canadian travellers in China are advised to “exercise a high degree of caution” while travelling in the country due to fear of arbitrary arrests.