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China, Philippines Conflict Increases Over Grounded Warship In Disputed Reef

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China demanded from the Philippines a second time to remove a grounded warship from a sandbank that is disputed between the two Asian countries. The warship belongs to the World War II era which is now utilized as a military outpost. China’s demand comes after Philippines rejected its earlier request.

The two Asian neighbours have been at loggerheads over the South China Sea. However, their relations have severed more as Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has been reaching out to the United States which supports the Southeast Asian nation in its maritime conflict with China.

China’s embassy in Philippines condemned the US for “gathering” its supporters to keep “hyping up” the South China Sea issue and the boat incident. On Tuesday, the embassy said, “South China Sea is not a ‘safari park’ for countries outside the region to make mischief and sow discord.”

A few soldiers have been stationed on the ex-warship Sierra Madre on the Second Thomas Shoal, which is a part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone. Manila purposefully grounded the ship in 1999 to support its claims to sovereignty.

Offended, Philippines time and again blamed the Chinese coastguard for preventing supplies to its troops in the shoal, like the Asian giant did on August 5 when it used water cannon on a Philippian vessel. On the contrary, China believes the Philippines has occupied the shoal illegally.

According to the Philippines’ military, the behaviour of the Chinese coastguard’s last Saturday was “excessive and offensive”. China replied by saying that the action was a “warning” and it tried to convey that it has practiced “rational restraint” everytime.

On Tuesday, the Chinese military ministry warned Manila to stop all “provocative” acts and promised to keep taking the necessary steps to protect its marine and sovereign rights.

Security analysts claim that Beijing’s actions surrounding the atoll are consistent with its desire to annex Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Renai Reef in China, and Ayungin in Manila.

Rommel Ong, a marine security expert and former vice commander of the Philippine Navy, said, “We must re-establish sea control around the shoal because if we don’t control it, our resupply is vulnerable to their coercive tactics.”

The South China Sea, which crosses the exclusive economic zones of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines, is virtually entirely claimed by China.

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