Philippines summons China diplomat over ‘aggressive’ actions in South China Sea

China, Xi Jinping

The Philippines summoned China’s deputy chief of mission in Manila on Tuesday to protest 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.

“The US stands with the Philippines and proponents of international law in support of a #FreeAndOpenIndoPacific,” US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson said on social media platform X.

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 will cooperate in talks with China but it will 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.

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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