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Chinese coast guard hits Philippine boat with water cannons in disputed sea, inflicting accidents

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A member of Philippine Coast Guard personnel arms out provides to the folks onboard a inflexible hull inflatable boat throughout a resupply mission within the South China Sea, March 23, 2024. Photo: Armed Forces of the Philippines/Handout by way of Reuters
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Chinese coast guard ships hit a Philippine provide boat with water cannons on March 23 within the newest confrontation close to a disputed shoal within the South China Sea, inflicting accidents to its navy crew members and heavy harm to the picket vessel, Philippine officers mentioned.

The United States and Japan instantly expressed their help to the Philippines, in addition to alarm over Chinese forces’ aggression off the Second Thomas Shoal, which has been the scene of repeated confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels over the previous yr.

The far-flung shoal has been occupied by a small contingent of Philippine navy and marines on a marooned warship since 1999, however has been surrounded by Chinese coast guard and suspected militia vessels in an more and more tense territorial standoff. It’s the second time the Philippine boat Unaizah May 4 has been broken by the Chinese coast guard’s water cannon assault in March alone.

The repeated high-seas confrontations have sparked fears they might degenerate into a bigger battle that might convey China and the United States right into a collision.

Washington lays no claims to the busy seaway, a key international commerce route, however has deployed Navy ships and fighter jets in what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations, which China has criticized.

The U.S. has additionally warned repeatedly that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines — its oldest treaty ally in Asia — if Filipino forces, ships and plane come underneath an armed assault, together with within the South China Sea.

Escorted by two Philippine coast guard ships, the Unaizah May 4 was en path to ship provides and a recent batch of Filipino sailors to the territorial outpost within the shoal at daybreak on March 23 once they had been blocked and surrounded by Chinese coast guard ships and suspected militia vessels.

“Their reckless and dangerous actions culminated with the water cannoning of Unaizah May 4, causing severe damage to the vessel and injuries to Filipinos onboard,” a Philippine government task force dealing with the territorial conflicts said without elaborating.

The two Philippine coast guard patrol ships maneuvered through the Chinese blockade to treat the injured Filipino crew members and tow the disabled supply boat away. Another motorboat managed to transport the new batch of Filipino sailors and supplies to the Philippine outpost in the shallows of the shoal despite the Chinese coast guard’s attempt to block them by placing a floating barrier in the waters, Philippine officials said.

EDITORIAL | Troubled waters: On the tensions between China and the Philippines

The hostilities dragged on for about 8 hours, they said.

“The Philippines will not be deterred — by veiled threats or hostility — from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones,” the government task force said in a statement. “We demand that China demonstrate in deeds and not in words that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community.”

Chinese coast guard spokesperson Gan Yu said the Philippine vessels intruded into what he said was China’s territorial waters despite repeated warnings. “The China coast guard implemented lawful regulation, interception and expulsion in a reasonable and professional manner,” Gan said.

Washington’s ambassador to Manila, MaryKay Carlson, said that “the U.S. stands with the Philippines against the PRC’s repeated dangerous maneuvers and water cannons to disrupt” the Philippine coast guard’s “lawful activities” in Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

Japan’s ambassador-designate to Manila, Endo Kazuya, reiterated his country’s “grave concern on the repeated dangerous actions by the Chinese coast guard in the South China Sea, which resulted in Filipino injuries.”

Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei even have overlapping claims within the resource-rich and busy waterway, which Beijing continues to assert nearly in its entirety regardless of a 2016 worldwide arbitration ruling that invalidated its expansive claims on historic grounds.

Video launched by the Philippine army reveals two Chinese coast guard ships hitting the smaller wooden-hulled boat Unaiza May 4 with high-pressure water cannon sprays at shut vary, inflicting the boat to shift within the excessive seas.

Chinese coast guard beforehand blasted the Unaizah May 4 with high-pressure water cannons in a confrontation close to the Second Thomas Shoal on March 5, shattering its windshield and barely injuring a Filipino admiral and 4 of his males with glass shards and splinters of particles.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila summoned China’s deputy ambassador after the March 5 confrontation to convey a protest in opposition to the Chinese coast guard’s actions, which it mentioned had been unacceptable.

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