- China and the Philippines clash in the recent naval confrontation
- Chinese Coast Guard says Philippine ships blocked ‘legally’
- The Manila task force says the collision endangers the Filipino crew
- The American envoy condemns China’s actions and expresses his support for Manila
BEIJING/MANILA (Reuters) – China and the Philippines traded accusations over a clash in disputed waters in the South China Sea as Chinese ships blocked Filipino boats supplying troops there on Sunday in the latest in a series of naval confrontations.
Recent months have witnessed numerous confrontations between the two countries in the South China Sea, especially near the disputed area of Second Thomas Shoal, which is part of the Spratly Islands.
The Philippines sent supplies to troops stationed on a rusty World War II-era transport ship that was being used as a shoal outpost, prompting the Chinese Coast Guard to frequently deploy ships to prevent resupply missions.
In the incident that occurred early Sunday, the Chinese Coast Guard said there was a “minor collision” between one of its vessels and the Philippine boat while the Coast Guard was “lawfully” preventing the boat from transporting “illegal construction materials” to the warship.
Manila responded by condemning “in the strongest terms” the Chinese ship’s “dangerous obstruction maneuvers.”
The Manila Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement that China’s “dangerous, irresponsible and illegal actions” represent a “violation of the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The Permanent Court of Arbitration said in 2016 that China’s claims had no legal basis.
“China has maintained great restraint and patience on this issue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
The ministry said in a statement that China has long maintained extensive contacts with Manila, which has ignored China’s good intentions.
He added that China will continue to take the necessary measures in accordance with domestic and international laws to protect its territorial sovereignty.
The United States sided with the Philippines and provided support to its ally. The US State Department said in a statement on Sunday that China’s actions amounted to repeated “harassment” in the South China Sea and were “dangerous and unlawful.”
The Canadian and Japanese embassies in Manila also expressed their support for the Philippines and their concern about the collision. European Union Ambassador Luc Veron said: “These incidents, their repetition and intensification, are very dangerous and disturbing.”
Manila’s relations with Beijing have been strained under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has strengthened military engagement with Washington since taking office last year. The Pentagon said in May that it would protect the Philippines if its Coast Guard was attacked “anywhere in the South China Sea.”
Last week, the Philippine military demanded that China stop its “dangerous and offensive” actions after it tracked down a Chinese navy ship and tried to block a Philippine navy ship that was on a resupply mission.
Manila said the collision occurred on Sunday during a routine resupply mission for a boat contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In another incident during the same resupply mission, it said the port side of a Philippine Coast Guard ship collided with a Chinese maritime militia ship.
The task force said the Chinese coast guard ship’s actions “jeopardized the safety of the crew” of the Philippine boat.
The Chinese Coast Guard said in a statement that the Philippine ship ignored repeated warnings, crossed the bow of the Chinese ship and deliberately caused problems, causing the collision.
“The Philippines’ behavior seriously violates international rules on avoiding collisions at sea and threatens the navigational safety of our vessels,” the Coast Guard said.
Manila banned the BRP Sierra Madre warship from flying in 1999 as part of its sovereign claim to Second Thomas Shoal, which lies within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
(Reporting by Ethan Wang, Bernard Orr and Ryan Wu in Beijing and Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila – Reporting by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington – Reporting by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin Editing by Lincoln Feast, Barbara Lewis and Jason Neely
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