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HomeChainaSouth China Sea: Beijing and Manila trade accusations over ‘provocative’ ship collisions...

South China Sea: Beijing and Manila trade accusations over ‘provocative’ ship collisions near disputed atoll

China and the Philippines accused each other of carrying out “provocative” actions at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea as tensions continued to rise between the two Asian neighbours in the strategic waterway.
In a statement released around noon on Sunday, the China Coast Guard said a “minor collision” took place at about 6.14am between a Chinese coastguard vessel and a Philippine resupply boat, which it said “ignored repeated warnings and deliberately crossed the bow” of the Chinese ship “in an unprofessional and dangerous manner”.
According to the statement, two hours later a Philippine Coast Guard vessel “deliberately stirred up trouble” by running into a Chinese fishing boat.

“The behaviour of the Philippine side is a serious violation of the international rules on collision avoidance at sea and threatens the safety of navigation, while our operation is professional, legitimate and lawful, and the responsibility lies entirely with the Philippine side,” the Chinese coastguard said.

China drives away Philippine gunboat near disputed Scarborough Shoal

In a separate statement, the Philippine National Security Council accused the Chinese side of causing the Sunday morning collision with the Unaiza May 2 resupply boat, which is contracted by the Philippine military.

It said a Philippine Coast Guard vessel “was bumped by a Chinese Maritime Militia vessel” about 6.4 nautical miles from the Second Thomas Shoal, an atoll in the Spratly Islands, a disputed archipelago known as the Nansha Islands in Chinese.

However, another Philippine resupply ship reached the shoal to bring supplies to troops and personnel stationed there, the statement said.

It added that the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea “condemns in the strongest degree the latest dangerous, irresponsible and illegal actions” of the Chinese coastguard.


Philippines accuses Chinese coastguard of firing water cannons at its vessels in disputed waters

Philippines accuses Chinese coastguard of firing water cannons at its vessels in disputed waters

The exchange of accusations came hours after Beijing announced early Sunday morning that it had “lawfully” blocked Philippine vessels transporting “illegal construction materials” to a warship “illegally grounded” in the shoal.

The Second Thomas Shoal, known as Renai Jiao in China and Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines, has become a flashpoint for tensions between China and the Philippines in the strategically important South China Sea.

The Chinese coastguard has regularly tried to block Philippine resupply missions from reaching the Second Thomas Shoal, where Manila has kept a rusty World War II-era ship since 1999 to reinforce its claims to the waters.

Earlier this month, Manila accused Beijing of carrying out a “dangerous manoeuvre” when a Chinese coastguard vessel came “as close as one metre” (3.3 feet) to a Philippine coastguard ship that tried to resupply the Sierra Madre vessel on the shoal. The Philippines said it “successfully” carried out the mission, while Beijing urged Manila to stop further “provocations”.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the Second Thomas Shoal and has repeatedly restricted resupply missions of construction materials by Manila, which considers the shoal – located about 105 nautical miles from the Philippines – part of its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The two sides have increasingly clashed over disputed waters in the South China Sea in recent months, particularly as Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, who took office in June of last year, has hardened his position over the maritime dispute and strengthened his country’s alliance with Washington.

Manila accused the Chinese coastguard of pointing a military-grade laser at a Philippine ship near the Second Thomas Shoal in February and using a water cannon in a separate encounter in August.

‘Unapproved’ Philippine vessels in South China Sea warned by Chinese coastguard

To counter what it views as Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea, the Philippines has published videos and photos of incidents involving Chinese ships and forces. It has also invited domestic and foreign journalists to monitor its resupply missions.

The latest incident highlighted the risks of confrontations in the waterway, through which goods worth between US$3 trillion and US$5 trillion are shipped every year.

Last month, Beijing placed floating barriers near Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyan Island in Chinese, another South China Sea atoll, in what it said was a necessary measure to stop Philippine fishermen from entering the shoal’s lagoon.

The Philippine Coast Guard later released photos and videos, saying it had removed the buoys, a claim soon disputed by Beijing, which insisted it took away the barrier “voluntarily”.

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