Chinese coastguard ship blasts vessels with water cannon and rams one as tensions mount | World | News

December 10, 2023
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ordered a coast guard ship to attack three Philippines boats with a water cannon, as well ramming one of them, in a brutal exchange in the disputed . One ship suffered serious engine damage during the confrontation near Second Thomas Shoal, just one day after a similar incident nearby, the Philippine coast guard said.

The incident occurred as two Philippine navy-operated supply boats and Philippine coast guard escort ships were travelling to deliver food and other supplies to Filipino forces in a long-marooned navy ship which serves as a territorial outpost, coast guard spokesman, Commodore Jay Tarriela said, without providing extra details. However, drone video footage issued by the Philippine coast guard show two Chinese coast guard ships separately blasting water cannons at close range at a Philippine coast guard patrol ship, BRP Cabra, and a smaller supply boat.

The Chinese coast guard confirmed it had “implemented controls in accordance with laws and regulations” against two Philippine coast guard vessels, including one official ship and one supply ship which were attempting to transport construction materials to the Second Thomas Shoal. The statement provided no details about the measures taken, but said the Philippines action “seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty.”

It also accused one Philippine vessel ignored warnings and of violating international navigation regulations by making a sharp turn in an “unprofessional and dangerous manner” and intentionally collided with a Chinese coast guard ship, causing “scratching.” The statement added: “The responsibility lies entirely with the Philippine side”. ‘s ships, which have surrounded the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal for years, have blocked Philippine coast guard and supply boats in a years-long effort to take control of the hotly disputed atoll claimed by both nations.

The hostilities, which have been especially heated this year, have stoked fears of an armed conflict which drag in the United States, which has pledged to defend the Philippines, its treaty ally, if Filipino forces come under armed attack. In Saturday’s confrontation, the Chinese coast guard and accompanying ships likewise trained water cannons at three Philippine fisheries vessels to prevent them from approaching Scarborough Shoal in the disputed waters off the northwestern Philippines.

That assault caused “significant damage” to the communication and navigation equipment of one of the three Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels, officials said. It was condemned by the Philippines, the United States and Japan.

Philippine officials added that in addition to the use of water cannons Saturday, suspected militia vessels accompanying Chinese coast guard ships used a long-range acoustic device that could impair hearing, causing “severe temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew.” A Philippine government task force that deals with the territorial disputes said on Saturday: “We demand that the Chinese government take immediate action to halt these aggressive activities and uphold the principles of international law and desist from actions that would infringe on Philippine sovereignty and endanger the lives and livelihood of Filipino fishermen.”

MaryKay Carlson, the US ambassador to the Philippines condemned China’s “aggressive, illegal actions” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. She said: “This Chinese behaviour violates international law and endangers lives and livelihood.

“We stand with our Philippine friends, partners, allies in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” In other high seas clashes this year, Chinese coast guard ships used a military-grade laser that caused Filipino crewmen temporary blindness and engaged in dangerous blocking and shadowing manoeuvres that caused minor collisions, Philippines officials say.

More tensions loom. A flotilla of 40 civilian fishing boats, backed by Philippine coast guard escort ships, was today en route to Second Thomas Shoal and two other Philippine-occupied areas to deliver Christmas food packs and other donated supplies to Filipino forces.

Speaking to Express.co.uk in 2020, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said China was using the waterway to exert military control over the entire area, often by fortifying unoccupied islands. He explained: “Once they have turned these islands into military fortresses, their next step is to impede international maritime access.

“And once they have achieved that, I expect them to introduce what is called an air defence identification zone, which is essentially controlling the airspace. This is contrary to international law. Many of these islands are disputed territories and yet nobody is standing up to China.”



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