Philippine president summons China envoy over sea confrontation

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A China Coast Guard ship sails near a Philippine Coast Guard vessel northwestern of the Philippines in 2022 [File: Philippine Coast Guard via AP]

China’s foreign ministry defended the Chinese coastguard’s actions towards a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has summoned China’s ambassador to convey his “serious concern” following reports that a Chinese coastguard vessel had engaged in dangerous manoeuvres and used a “military-grade” laser to impede a Philippine ship in the South China Sea.

The president’s office said that China’s ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian was called to a meeting on Tuesday afternoon during which Marcos Jr criticised the behaviour of China’s coastguards on February 6 near Second Thomas Shoal, which is known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines.

Marcos Jr addressed “the increasing frequency and intensity of actions by China against the Philippine Coast Guard and our Filipino fishermen in their bancas [small fishing vessels], the latest of which was the deployment of a military-grade laser against our Coast Guard vessels,” the president’s office said.

China had engaged in “acts of aggression” in the South China Sea, the Philippine foreign ministry said on Tuesday, which were “disturbing and disappointing”, ministry spokesperson Teresita Daza said.

The harassment by China of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship while on a resupply mission to troops based at Ayungin Shoal threatened the sovereignty and security of the Philippines, the ministry said.

China’s use of a high-powered laser had temporarily blinded the ship’s crew, according to the PCG, and the Chinese ship had engaged in dangerous activities that could have caused a collision.

Reuters reported that the Chinese ambassador to Manila said after the meeting with Marcos Jr that he had discussed the implementation of an agreement between the two countries on managing maritime differences at sea, which was reached during the Philippine leader’s recent visit to China.

Asked to respond to the claims of aggressive actions made by Manila, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that his country’s coastguard had acted in a “professional and restrained” manner towards the Philippine ship, and denied the version of events as conveyed by Philippine officials.

“At present, the relevant waters are calm overall,” Wang Wenbin said at a news briefing.

Wang also accused the Philippines and the United States – a close ally of Manila – of engaging in “pure political drama” in taking a case to the international court of arbitration which ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis for its territorial claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

He said that China would not be intimidated by the US, which also accused China of “provocative and unsafe” conduct in attempting to disrupt the delivery of supplies to the Philippine troops.

“The US invokes its Mutual Defence Treaty with the Philippines at every turn in an attempt to intimidate China, but it will not weaken our resolve and will to safeguard China’s legitimate and lawful rights and interests,” Wang added.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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