Philippine authorities say Chinese Coast Guard vessels used water cannons to attack their supply ships
Philippines accuses Chinese Coast Guard of firing water cannons on its supply boats
Philippine authorities have accused Chinese Coast Guard vessels of shooting at their supply ships, a day after their biggest trading partner warned China against provocative behaviour near its fishing grounds in the disputed South China Sea.
A Philippine foreign ministry spokesman, Charles Jose, said the Chinese vessels attacked a Philippine cargo vessel and a fishing vessel on Friday when they were making a delivery to an oil rig that the Chinese have moved closer to a Philippine-held island, Benham Rise.
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Jose said the Philippine coast guard vessels boarded and rescued the merchant vessel, which was about 15 nautical miles from the drilling rig. It had sustained minor injuries, he said.
He said a Filipino fishing vessel about 200 nautical miles from the rig was also approached by Chinese Coast Guard vessels and severely hit by water cannons.
“The Chinese Coast Guard vessels discharged water cannons and the Philippine fishing vessel sank,” he said.
He said one Filipino crew member was in hospital and was in a stable condition.
“We urge the Chinese government to respect international law, maintain peace and stability in the region and avoid provocative behaviour in the disputed waters,” Jose said.
The Philippines says its territorial waters are part of the Rise, while China says that it is a naturally occurring sea and that it can occupy any area it wishes.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China never took actions aimed at causing pain or harm to other countries. He accused the Philippines of instigating maritime confrontations with China by sending unmanned surveillance ships over and beyond their territorial waters in an attempt to “further downgrade bilateral relations”.
Lu added: “I don’t think the incidents will have an impact on our bilateral relations, or further reduce our already very good friendship between our two countries.”
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5tn in trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
China has deployed many of its warships and a growing number of paramilitary fishing boats in its artificial islands in the Spratlys, a group of seven islets and reefs located hundreds of miles south of the Philippines, which has not so far claimed sovereignty.
The US has criticised Beijing’s island-building and militarisation of the disputed area, while condemning recent Duterte’s administration for a marked loosening of Manila’s once hawkish stance toward China.
China has deployed a pair of nuclear submarines to the disputed waters as part of what one US official has called “a significant strengthening of its force posture” in the South China Sea.