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Tensions between China, Philippines take violent turn as their ships collide in disputed waters

The two countries have clashed repeatedly as both claim the Second Thomas Shoal, which was internationally recognised as part of the Philippines but was ignored by China. Beijing has repeatedly harassed the Philippine navy and coast guard ships with water cannons and more.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Beijing Published on: June 17, 2024 19:15 IST
The Second Thomas Shoal, claimed by China and the
Image Source : AP The Second Thomas Shoal, claimed by China and the Philippines, has been the source of repeated clashes between the two countries.

Beijing: The long-standing territorial dispute between China and the Philippines flared up again on Monday when their naval ships collided in disputed waters, after Beijing issued new rules to act against foreign vessels and detain foreigners “suspected of violating” regulations in the Chinese waters. China accused a Filipino ship of "illegally entering" the waters near the Second Thomas Shoal and "dangerously" approaching the Chinese vessel, resulting in a collision.

Both countries have been at loggerheads in the past few months as the Philippines made a strong bid to assert its claims over the Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China. Beijing has also laid claim at the Shoal, which it calls Ren'ai Jiao, and has accused the Philippines of deliberately running a naval ship aground and converting it into a permanent installation used by its navy. 

According to the China Coast Guard (CCG), the Chinese vessel collided with the Philippines ship on Monday morning in a bid to prevent it from delivering construction materials. It said the vessel had taken regulatory measures to respond to an illegal intrusion by a Philippine supply vessel into the disputed waters. No injuries or damage was reported.

Philippines rejects 'deceptive and misleading' allegations

This came after the Chinese Navy deployed an amphibious assault ship in Nansha Islands (or Spratly Islands) in the South China Sea on Sunday, which is believed to be in preparation for any emergency response after repeated clashes with the Philippines. "China Coast Guard only took necessary control measures against the Philippine vessels in accordance with the law, and the on-site operation was conducted in a professional, restrained, reasonable and lawful manner," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday rejected China's allegation that a Philippines ship illegally entered its waters, terming it "deceptive and misleading", as per local reports. An official said the presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that infringe on Manila's sovereignty and sovereign rights remain the main issue. 

The Philippines, backed by the US, is trying to assert its claims over the South China Sea based on a 2016 ruling by a tribunal of the UN Convention of Law of Seas (UNCLOS) endorsing its rights. China had boycotted the tribunal and rejected its findings.

China's controversial law on foreign vessels

This is the first collision of ships after Beijing promulgated a new law on Saturday, authorising its coast guard to seize foreign ships that illegally enter China's territorial waters and to detain foreign crews for up to 60 days. The law empowers China's coast guard to fire upon foreign ships if necessary.

China’s new law says its Coast Guard will from Saturday be able to detain foreigners “suspected of violating management of border entry and exit”. At least three coastal governments with claims to the waters -- the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan -- have said they would not recognise the law. The Philippines, strongly backed by the US, has stepped up efforts to assert its claims in the area, much to the chagrin of Beijing.

China has angered the Philippines by repeatedly harassing its navy and coast guard ships with powerful water cannons, a military-grade laser, blocking movements and other dangerous manoeuvres in the high seas near two disputed South China Sea shoals. They have led to minor collisions that have injured several Filipino navy personnel and damaged supply boats. Earlier, the Philippine coast guard on Friday accused China of blocking efforts to evacuate an unwell member of its armed forces in the disputed waters, calling its actions "barbaric and inhumane".

"The barbaric and inhumane behaviour displayed by the China Coast Guard has no place in our society," Tarriela said in a statement, further claiming that Chinese vessels engaged in "dangerous manoeuvres and even intentionally rammed" a navy boat while it transporting the sick personnel. "What should have been a simple medical evacuation operation was subjected to harassment," he said.

The recently concluded G7 Summit in Italy criticised China saying that the “dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia” in the SCS and the “increasing use of dangerous manoeuvres and water cannons” against Philippines vessels. China has rejected the statement as full of arrogance, prejudice and lies.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | 'Barbaric, inhumane': Philippines accuses China on blocking medical evacuation as tensions flare again

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