The Navy announces third Indo-Pacific deployment

HMCS Winnipeg conducts a Replenishment at Sea (RAS) with JSS Izumo off the port side during Operation Projection while sailing in the South China Sea on September 29, 2022.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) will ramp up its presence in the Indo-Pacific region in 2023.

The Honorable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence, and Vice-Admiral (V-Adm) Angus Topshee, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), announced the RCN would deploy three frigates to the region next year.

The Minister and Admiral were on hand at Duntze Head on Dec. 5 to officially welcome HMCS Vancouver and HMCS Winnipeg home. In a time-held RCN Admiral tradition, the pair saluted the two ships and their crews for a job well done as they sailed into Esquimalt Harbour and passed between the former naval battery and Fisgard Lighthouse.

In her comments to media members at Duntze Head, Anand emphasized the importance of the deployment to the region.

“We are very proud to have Canadian frigates in the region to participate in [military] exercises and operations with our partners and Allies as our goal in the region is to increase Canada’s presence and contribute to peace and stability,” Anand said.

V-Adm Topshee said the announcement of a third annual mission to the Indo-Pacific region is a sign the RCN is ‘shifting the weight of its efforts’ in the region. As part of the shift, V-Adm Topshee said frigates of the Pacific Fleet would only participate in one NATO-led mission next year instead of the usual two.

Anand emphasized the importance of maintaining a ‘free, open and inclusive’ Indo-Pacific. Because these are international waters, “there is no justification [for China] to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity,” she continued.

The 180-kilometre Strait is part of the South China Sea and separates the Island of Taiwan from continental Asia. The most recent RCN-involved sail of the Strait was conducted with the United States Navy vessel USS Higgins and HMCS Vancouver in September 2022 as part of Operation Projection. Also noteworthy was monitoring United Nations sanctions against North Korea through Op Neon, Anand said.

V-Adm Topshee cited the involvement of Vancouver and Winnipeg with multi-national partners in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises held in the opening weeks of their deployments in July and in October, the RCN vessels involved in Exercise Keen Sword 2022 led by the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force, United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy.

Together with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, Anand announced Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy on Nov. 29 as a five-year, $2.3-billion investment to promote peace and stability while expanding regional trade. It also includes new Defence initiatives.

The Government of Canada will invest $493 million to reinforce Canada’s Indo-Pacific naval presence and increase Canadian Armed Forces participation in regional military exercises.

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