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Philippines strongly protests latest Chinese coast guard assault on resupply vessel

Voice of America

The Philippines summoned a Chinese envoy over the China coast guard’s “aggressive actions” near a South China Sea reef in late March 2024.

It was the latest of Beijing’s repeated confrontations with Philippine vessels over the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) expansive and arbitrary territorial claims in the strategic waterway.

The Chinese coast guard fires water cannons at a Philippine supply vessel near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on March 23, 2024. The shoal is in Manila’s exclusive economic zone and houses a Philippine military contingent.

The incident took place March 23 near Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands during a regular Philippine supply mission to troops garrisoned on the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded navy ship. Such missions deliver food, water and other necessities, as well as transport for personnel rotations.

The Philippines said the China coast guard blocked and fired water cannons at the supply vessel, injuring three crew members and damaging the boat.

Second Thomas Shoal is about 200 kilometers from the western Philippine island of Palawan and within Manila’s exclusive economic zone. The PRC claims the shoal even though it is more than 1,000 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese landmass, Hainan island.

Manila conveyed its “strong protest against the aggressive actions undertaken by the China coast guard and Chinese maritime militia against the rotation and resupply mission undertaken by the Philippines in Ayungin Shoal,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said, using the Filipino name for the shoal.

It said the Philippine Embassy in Beijing lodged a similar protest with the Chinese foreign ministry.

“The Philippines demands that Chinese vessels leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal and the Philippine exclusive economic zone immediately,” the protests stated.

Chinese ships previously have rammed and blasted water cannons at Philippine vessels near the shoal.

The PRC claims almost the entire South China Sea, ignoring claims from other countries, including the Philippines, and an international tribunal’s 2016 ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.

The United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Manila, denounced the latest attack. It came days after visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. stands by its “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines against armed attack in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has deepened cooperation with the U.S. and other regional partners, while standing up to Chinese aggression.

Despite the attack, the damaged supply vessel and a Philippine Coast Guard ship that came to its aid successfully completed the mission, delivering cargo and personnel to the military outpost before returning to port, officials said.

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