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B.C.-based navy ships head into tension in the Indo-Pacific

Trio of ships, 300 personnel to take part in largest joint maritime exercise in the world
The Canadian Navy frigate “HMCS Vancouver” arrives during the Fleet Week Parade of Ships on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Defence Minister Bill Blair says Canada will be sending Royal Canadian Navy vessels to support the Indo-Pacific Strategy in the coming days.

The Department of National Defence says the CFB Esquimalt-based HMCS Vancouver will leave for Hawaii to take part in Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2024, known as RIMPAC, which it says is the largest joint and combined maritime exercise in the world.

HMCS Max Bernays, MV Asterix and a shore-based contingent of about 300 Canadian Armed Forces members will also be at RIMPAC.

The department says this will be the second year that the navy will be deploying three warships to the region.

Once RIMPAC 2024 is concluded, Vancouver will continue sailing west across the Pacific Ocean for Operation Horizon, which is a forward-presence mission in the Indo-Pacific region.

Blair, who announced the navy participation while attending the Shangri-La defence forum in Singapore, says in a statement the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region is vital to Canada’s future and the deployment shows that Canada is a partner for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

The Shangri-La defense forum is Asia’s premier security conference, which features defense officials, government leaders and diplomats from around the world.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with his Chinese counterpart there for more than an hour Friday, as the two countries seek to repair lines of communications between their militaries that could be critical as tensions continue to rise between the two in the Indo-Pacific region.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose country has had escalating hostilities with China in the disputed South China Sea, underscored the dangers of the regional flashpoint at the forum.

If a Filipino gets killed in the conflict “by a willful act,” he said, that is “very, very close to what we define as an act of war.”

“That would certainly increase the level of response,” Marcos said.

Beijing in recent years has been rapidly expanding its navy and is becoming growingly assertive in pressing its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, which has led to an increasing number of direct conflicts with other countries in the region, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam.

The U.S., meantime, has been ramping up military exercises in the region with its allies to underscore its “free and open Indo-Pacific” concept, meant to emphasize freedom of navigation through the contested waters, including the Taiwan Strait. China also claims the democratic self-governing island of Taiwan and has said it would not rule out using force to take it.

—with files from the Associated Press

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