In another maritime conflict between the two nations at a time of simmering geopolitical tension, the Philippines, on Friday, accused China’s coast guard of “dangerous manoeuvres” and “aggressive tactics” in the South China Sea.
The incident happened on Sunday while a Philippine coast guard patrol was near the Philippine-held Second Thomas Shoal, which is situated 105 nautical miles (195 km) off its coast and has historically been the scene of clashes.
According to a statement from the coast guard, two Chinese ships behaved aggressively and posed “a significant threat to the safety and security of the Philippine vessel and its crew.” It said that one of the two Chinese ships “carried out dangerous manoeuvres” about 150 feet (45.72 metres) from a Philippine ship.
China should “refrain from actions that may cause an untoward incident,” according to Teresita Daza, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, who claimed that China had interfered with a normal patrol.
A small military garrison is stationed on the Second Thomas Shoal aboard a decrepit American ship from World War Two that was purposefully grounded in 1999 to support the Philippines’ territorial claims. The Philippines claimed in February that a Chinese ship had fired a “military-grade laser” at one of its resupply ships.
With a ‘nine-dash line’ on maps that extends more than 1,500 km off its mainland and enters the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia, China asserts sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea. In 2016, a decision by an international arbitral tribunal rejected that line as without legal conditions.
Mao Ning, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, claimed on Friday that the Philippine vessels had violated Chinese territorial seas and “made deliberate provocative moves.”
According to Mao, the Chinese vessels behaved professionally and with moderation. “We urge the Philippines to respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights,” he added.
The incident happened on the same weekend when Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila.
The two countries are swiftly expanding their defence engagements, including sizable military drills and the recent expansion of U.S. access to Philippines’ facilities. Marcos will meet with Biden at the White House the following week. The bases arrangement is not acceptable to China.
The Philippine coast guard reported seeing over 100 boats, including coast guard vessels and a Chinese military corvette, during its patrol of the disputed Spratly islands and Philippine-held features from April 18 to 24.