Canada to increase military presence in Indo-Pacific -defense minister

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's Minister of National Defence Anita Anand take part in a news conference in Ottawa

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada will increase its military presence in the Indo-Pacific as part of a soon-to-be released strategy for the region meant to help counter the rising influence of China, Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Friday.

Canada sees relations with Indo-Pacific countries as vital to its national security as well as its economic and environmental goals. Ottawa has said it would unveil its sweeping new strategy for the region within the next few weeks.

Anand did not provide any details in her speech at the Halifax International Security Forum on Friday, but her comments indicate there could be new military spending included in Ottawa's plans for the Indo-Pacific.

"Our strategy will position Canada as a leader in promoting peace and security in the region," Anand said. "We will increase our military presence and enhance our defense and security relationships with partners and allies in the region."

The new strategy would aim to challenge China on issues including human rights violations, while cooperating with the world's second-biggest economy on climate change and other shared goals, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said earlier this month.

"We will challenge China when we ought to. We will cooperate with China when we must," Anand said.

Anand also stressed Ottawa's commitment to NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canadian North American defense organization, and vowed to continue supporting Ukraine.

"Canada will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people, for however long it takes," she said.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)