Philippines summons China diplomat over 'aggressive' actions in South China Sea
Philippines summons China diplomat over 'aggressive' actions in South China Sea
Philippines summons China diplomat over 'aggressive' actions in South China Sea
by DZRH News06 March 2024
Philippine Coast Guard personnel inspect the hull of the ship during a collision incident between the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Sindangan and a Chinese Coast Guard ship in the disputed South China Sea, March 5, 2024. Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS

By Bernard Orr, Liz Lee and Karen Lema

BEIJING/MANILA (Reuters) -The Philippines summoned China's deputy chief of mission in Manila on Tuesday to protest at what it called "aggressive actions" by Chinese naval forces against a resupply mission for Filipino troops stationed on a South China Sea shoal.

Manila's South China Sea task force said Philippine vessels carrying out the routine mission to the Second Thomas Shoal were "harassed (and) blocked" by Chinese maritime militia and coast guard ships on Tuesday.

Chinese coast guard ships fired water cannon, shattering the windshield of one of the resupply boats and causing minor injuries to at least four crew members, the task force said.


Their "reckless" and "illegal" actions also led to a collision between a Chinese and Philippine ship, with the latter sustaining minor structural damage, Manila's coast guard spokesperson said separately.

The Philippine foreign ministry said it had summoned the Chinese diplomat on Tuesday to convey its protest and to demand that Chinese vessels immediately leave the vicinity of the Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila calls Ayungin.

"China's interference with the Philippines' routine and lawful activities in its own exclusive economic zone is unacceptable," the ministry said in a statement. "China's actions in Ayungin Shoal infringes upon the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction."

China laid the blame on Manila, saying Philippine ships had illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal - which it calls Renai Reef - so it had to take control measures.


The Chinese action was also condemned by the United States, Philippines' defence treaty ally.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the actions were "provocative" and showed "a reckless disregard by the PRC for the safety of Filipinos and also for international law", referring to the People's Republic of China.

Miller, at a press briefing, said the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which requires Washington to support Manila in the event of an attack, extends to armed attacks on Philippine vessels anywhere in the South China Sea, but declined to say whether the treaty could be triggered by the latest incident.

"I will just say that the United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of these dangerous and unlawful actions," Miller said.



The shoal is home to a small number of Filipino troops stationed on a rusting warship which Manila grounded there in 1999 to reinforce sovereignty claims.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the Second Thomas Shoal, and has deployed vessels to patrol the disputed atoll which lies within the Philippines' EEZ.

Tuesday's incident was the latest in a series of maritime run-ins between the Philippines and China, which have been locked in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea despite a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration which found that China's claims had no legal basis. Beijing rejects that ruling.


The Philippine task force said Beijing's "unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous manoeuvres" put "into question the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue and lessening of tensions".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a press conference in Beijing the operation was "professional and restrained, reasonable and lawful".

"China once again urges the Philippine side to stop maritime violations and provocations and refrain from taking any actions that may complicate the maritime situation," Mao said.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said at a forum in Australia on Monday that his country would cooperate in talks with China but it would push back when its sovereignty and maritime rights are ignored.


In a departure from his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte's pro-China stance, Marcos has accused Beijing of aggression in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, including the use of water cannon, "military-grade" lasers and collision tactics to drive away Philippine vessels.

"Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others," the Philippine task force said.

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Shanghai newsroom and Karen Lema in Manila; additional reporting by Simon Lewis in Washington; Editing by Kim Coghill, Angus MacSwan and Alison Williams)

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