Philippines says Chinese coast guard assaulted its vessels with water cannons for a second day

by Sophia Chen
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South China Sea Tensions

The Philippine government has reported that, for the second consecutive day, Chinese coast guard vessels engaged in hostile actions towards Philippine vessels in the South China Sea. The incident took place near Second Thomas Shoal, where two Philippine navy-operated supply boats and Philippine coast guard escort ships were en route to deliver essential supplies to Filipino forces stationed on a stranded navy ship serving as a territorial outpost.

According to Commodore Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson for the Philippine coast guard, the Chinese coast guard assaulted three Philippine vessels with water cannon blasts and rammed one of them, resulting in significant engine damage. Drone video footage and photographs released by the Philippine coast guard depict Chinese coast guard ships firing water cannons at close range at a Philippine coast guard patrol ship, BRP Cabra, as well as a smaller supply boat.

The Chinese coast guard has claimed that they were implementing controls in accordance with their laws and regulations against two Philippine coast guard vessels, including an official ship and a supply ship, as they attempted to transport construction materials to the Second Thomas Shoal. The statement from the Chinese coast guard did not provide specific details about the measures taken but asserted that the Philippines’ actions had seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty.

Furthermore, the Chinese coast guard alleged that a Philippine vessel ignored warnings and, in violation of international navigation regulations, made a sharp turn in an “unprofessional and dangerous manner,” intentionally colliding with a Chinese coast guard ship, resulting in minor scratching. They placed full responsibility on the Philippine side.

The long-standing territorial dispute in the South China Sea, exacerbated by recent hostilities, has raised concerns of a potential armed conflict involving the United States, which has pledged to defend the Philippines, its treaty ally, in the event of an armed attack.

In a previous confrontation on Saturday, the Chinese coast guard used water cannons against three Philippine fisheries vessels to prevent them from approaching Scarborough Shoal, causing significant damage to the communication and navigation equipment of one of the vessels. This incident drew condemnation from the Philippines, the United States, and Japan.

Additionally, it was reported that suspected militia vessels accompanying Chinese coast guard ships utilized a long-range acoustic device that could cause temporary discomfort and incapacitation to Filipino crew members due to impaired hearing.

The Philippine government’s task force responsible for territorial disputes has called on the Chinese government to immediately cease these aggressive activities and uphold international law principles to avoid infringing on Philippine sovereignty and jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of Filipino fishermen.

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay Carlson, has also condemned China’s actions, characterizing them as aggressive and illegal violations of international law. She reaffirmed the United States’ support for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and expressed solidarity with its Philippine allies.

Throughout this year, there have been other high-seas clashes, including incidents where Chinese coast guard ships employed military-grade lasers, resulting in temporary blindness among Filipino crew members, and engaged in dangerous blocking and shadowing maneuvers that led to minor collisions.

As tensions continue to escalate, a flotilla of 40 civilian fishing boats, accompanied by Philippine coast guard escort ships, is en route to Second Thomas Shoal and two other Philippine-occupied areas to deliver Christmas food packs and donated supplies to Filipino forces.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about South China Sea tensions

What is the background of the South China Sea dispute?

The South China Sea dispute is a long-standing territorial conflict involving multiple nations, primarily China and the Philippines, but also including other countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan. It centers around competing territorial claims over various islands, shoals, and waters in the South China Sea.

What specifically happened in this recent incident?

In this recent incident, Chinese coast guard vessels engaged in hostile actions toward Philippine vessels near Second Thomas Shoal. They used water cannon blasts and rammed one of the Philippine vessels, causing serious engine damage. This confrontation occurred as Philippine vessels were delivering supplies to Filipino forces stationed on a stranded navy ship serving as a territorial outpost.

What is the significance of Second Thomas Shoal?

Second Thomas Shoal is one of the disputed areas in the South China Sea. It holds strategic importance due to its location, and both the Philippines and China have territorial claims over it. This has led to repeated confrontations in the area.

How has the international community reacted to these incidents?

The international community, including the United States and Japan, has condemned China’s actions in these incidents, characterizing them as aggressive and in violation of international law. The United States, in particular, has expressed support for its treaty ally, the Philippines, and its commitment to defending them in the event of an armed attack.

What is the concern regarding potential armed conflict?

The ongoing tensions in the South China Sea have raised concerns about the possibility of an armed conflict. The involvement of the United States, which has pledged to defend the Philippines, adds complexity to the situation and increases the risk of a broader conflict in the region.

Have there been previous incidents like this in the South China Sea?

Yes, there have been multiple incidents in the South China Sea involving Chinese coast guard actions against vessels from neighboring countries. These incidents have included the use of water cannons, military-grade lasers, and dangerous maneuvers, resulting in collisions and damage to vessels.

How is the Philippines responding to these incidents?

The Philippine government has called on China to cease its aggressive activities, uphold international law, and respect Philippine sovereignty. They have also expressed concern about the safety and well-being of Filipino fishermen and naval personnel in the disputed areas.

What are the implications of this ongoing dispute?

The South China Sea dispute has significant geopolitical implications, affecting not only the countries directly involved but also regional stability and international maritime law. It remains a complex and volatile issue with far-reaching consequences.

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