Manila blasts China’s ‘unprovoked aggression’ in latest South China Sea incident

A Chinese coast guard ship fired a water cannon that allegedly heavily damaged a Philippine supply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal.
By RFA Staff
2024.03.23
Manila blasts China’s ‘unprovoked aggression’ in latest South China Sea incident In this image from video provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a Chinese coast guard ship uses a water cannon on a Philippine resupply vessel Unaizah May 4 as it approaches Second Thomas Shoal, locally called Ayungin shoal, at the disputed South China Sea, March 23, 2024.
Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP

China's coast guard on Saturday fired a water cannon at a Philippine supply boat in disputed waters in the South China Sea, causing “significant damages to the vessel” and injuring its crew, the Philippine coast guard said.

Manila was attempting to resupply troops stationed on a ship at the Second Thomas Shoal, known locally as Ayungin Shoal, when the Chinese coast guard and maritime militia “harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons, and executed dangerous maneuvers against the routine RoRe (rotation and resupply) mission,” said the Philippine National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims as its jurisdiction.

The Chinese coast guard also set up “a floating barrier” to block access to shoal where Manila ran aground an old warship, BRP Sierra Madre, to serve as a military outpost.

The Philippine task force condemned China’s “unprovoked aggression, coercion, and dangerous maneuvers.”

Philippines’ RoRe missions have been regularly blocked by China’s coast guard, but this is the first time a barrier was set up near the shoal. 

The Philippine coast guard nevertheless claimed that the mission on Saturday was accomplished.

Potential consequences

The Second Thomas Shoal lies within the country’s exclusive economic zone where Manila holds sovereign rights. 

China, however, claims historic rights over most of the South China Sea, including the Spratly archipelago, which the shoal forms a part of.

A Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson on Saturday said the Philippine supply vessel “intruded” into the waters near the shoal, called Ren’ai Jiao in Chinese, “without permission from the Chinese government.”

“China coast guard took necessary measures at sea in accordance with law to safeguard China's rights, firmly obstructed the Philippines’ vessels, and foiled the Philippines’ attempt,” the ministry said.

“If the Philippines insists on going its own way, China will continue to adopt resolute measures,” the spokesperson said, warning that Manila “should be prepared to bear all potential consequences.”

Chinese militia.JPG
Chinese Maritime Militia vessels near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 5, 2024. (Adrian Portugal/Reuters)

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson wrote on social media platform X that her country “stands with the Philippines” against China’s maneuvers.

Beijing’s “interference with the Philippines’ freedom of navigation violates international law and threatens a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she wrote.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hae Kyong Yu also said that Canberra shares the Philippines’ “serious concerns about dangerous conduct by China’s vessels adjacent to Second Thomas Shoal.” 

“This is part of a pattern of deeply concerning behavior,” Yu wrote on X.

Edited by Jim Snyder.

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