Chinese navy vessels carried out “dangerous manoeuvres” and exhibited “aggressive tactics" to block a Philippine patrol vessel in the South China Sea, Philippines Coast Guard, in a confrontation that caused a near-collision.
The tense face-off confirmed on Friday took place last weekend during a week-long patrol mission by the Filipino coast guard.
It was the latest confrontation in the string of tense maritime interactions between the two nations locked in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea amid rising tensions over the island’s deepening security alliance with the US.
The Philippines Coast Guard said that it identified more than 100 "alleged Chinese maritime militia vessels, a People’s Liberation Army Navy corvette class and two China Coast Guard vessels" within the Philippines’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone during its week-long mission.
On 23 April, a Chinese vessel "carried out dangerous manoeuvers" at a distance of about 150ft from a Philippine ship while the other two ships displayed aggressive tactics" in the vicinity of Ayungin shoal.
This close proximity posed a significant threat to the safety and security of the Philippine vessel and its crew, it said.
Chinese foreign ministry on Friday said that its coast guard took action to “safeguard sovereignty” after a Philippines vessel intruded into Chinese waters.
The hostilities between the two navies happened as Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang arrived in Manila to hold talks with his Philippine counterpart and president Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Saturday.
Long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea as Beijing claims most part of the resource-rich waters. An estimated $3 trillion worth of goods pass through the strategic waters throughout the year. The Philippines has repeatedly called on Beijing to stop its "aggressive activities" in the area.
The Philippine coast guard had invited a small group of journalists on the patrol mission, as part of a new Philippine strategy aimed at exposing China‘s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
The Associated Press reporters witnessed the confrontation in which Philippine patrol vessels received radio warnings in Chinese and halting English.
On Sunday, a Chinese coast guard repeatedly warned them by radio to leave the area as two Filipino vessels partrolled in the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal.
“Since you have disregarded our warning, we will take further necessary measures on you in accordance with the laws and any consequences entailed will be borne by you,” a Chinese coast guard announced.
In another major escalation in February, the Philippine Coast Guard said a Chinese vessel had directed a “military-grade laser” at one of its ships supporting a resupply mission to troops in the disputed waterway, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.
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