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China blocks Philippine supply run in disputed waters (VIDEO)

Manilla and Beijing have traded accusations over a naval incident near the Spratly Islands

Chinese patrol boats used water cannons on Saturday to disrupt an attempt by the Philippine military to deliver supplies to a reef in a disputed part of the South China Sea, where the Philippine Navy intentionally grounded a tank landing ship over two decades ago.

The incident occurred near the Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands archipelago, claimed by several countries including the China and Philippines. In 1999, Manila moved to strengthen its bid by permanently placing the BRP Sierra Madre – a military vessel that was originally built for the US Navy during World War II – at the location and turning it into a marine base.

After being confronted by Chinese forces, the Philippines’ Unaizah May 4 supply ship “sustained heavy damages,” the military said. It released aerial footage of the stand-off, calling it an “attack” by China. A Philippine coast guard vessel later reached the boat “to provide assistance,” the statement said.

WATCH | At 08:38 AM, the Philippine supply vessel Unaizah May 4 was subjected to direct water cannoning by two CCG vessels near Ayungin Shoal. The UM4 supply boat sustained heavy damages at around 08:52 due to the continued blasting of water cannons from the CCG vessels. pic.twitter.com/r540s80Qd2

— Armed Forces of the Philippines (@TeamAFP) March 23, 2024

Beijing described the action as a lawful interception of foreign vessels infringing on Chinese waters. The clash was “entirely provoked by the Philippines,” Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qia stated on Sunday, claiming that Manila was acting “in bad faith”. He warned that “China will continue to take resolute measures” in case of further “provocations”.

Last October, the Philippines started refurbishing the BRP Sierra Madre, to improve living conditions of military personnel stationed at the outpost. The military leadership said the men needed decent sleeping and dining conditions and internet access.

READ MORE: US ally warns of ‘swarm’ of Chinese ships

The delivery of construction materials was carried out by sea and triggered a rebuke from Beijing, which said the supply run was done without its permission – while Manila said no such permission was required.

The territorial disputes in the South China Sea also involve overlapping claims by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, as well as the self-governed Chinese island of Taiwan. The region has intensive commercial traffic, on which the foreign trade of South Asian nations heavily depends.


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