The Philippines has accused Chinese ships of crashing into two of its boats Sunday in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told reporters Monday he considered the incidents a “blatant violation of international law.” Teodoro said a Chinese coast guard ship and a “militia” boat had struck Philippine resupply boats.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called an emergency meeting with top military and security officials to discuss the situation. The incidents happened near a land formation known as Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands. The Spratly Islands are made up of many small islands, known as islets, and other land masses in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest trade routes, is rich in natural resources. China claims nearly all of the waterway as its territory. But others also claim parts of the sea. These include the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
A Philippine security official told The Associated Press the incidents did not cause injuries and that damage to the ships was still being investigated.
China said the Philippine boats, or vessels, had “trespassed” without approval into what it said were Chinese territorial waters. Chinese coast guard officials said the Philippine ships had ignored repeated radio warnings to leave the area.
China’s coast guard blamed the Philippine boats for the crashes, also called collisions. "The Philippine side’s behavior seriously violates the international rules on avoiding collisions at sea and threatens the navigation safety of our vessels,” it said in a statement published on its website.
Chinese officials said the coast guard was acting to stop Philippine ships suspected of carrying “illegal” building materials.
China’s foreign ministry and embassy in Manila issued official condemnations to the Philippine government over the incidents. Philippine diplomats in Manila called in a Chinese Embassy official to protest the actions of the Chinese ships.
Philippine officials said two Philippine coast guard ships were guiding two supply boats headed to the area to drop off food and other supplies. The Philippines has a small military base near Second Thomas Shoal that has been under a Chinese blockade.
The shoal sits within a 300-kilometer “exclusive economic zone” the Philippines claims control over.
Territorial disputes over the South China Sea have at times raised tensions among claimants. The United States has no claims over the waterway. But it has warned China and other nations not to carry out aggressive moves in the sea.
In the past, the U.S. has sent ships to the South China Sea to carry out “freedom of navigation” exercises. Such operations are meant to show military force and support free movement of shipping in international waters.
The U.S. and other allies expressed alarm over the latest Chinese action. On Sunday, the U.S. State Department repeated its position that the United States would defend the Philippines in case of an armed attack.
The possible defense is covered under a 1951 treaty between the two nations. The treaty states that if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack – including those of its coast guard – U.S. forces could assist with military operations.
In its latest statement, the State Department said the U.S. “stands with our Philippine allies” in opposing the “dangerous and unlawful actions” of the Chinese ships.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
blatant – adj. very obvious, with no attempt to be honest or behave well
trespass – v. to go on someone’s land without their approval
navigation – m. moving a boat or ship over an area of water
exclusive – adj. not shared with another person or organization