China, Philippines’ dispute over grounded warship heats up

BEIJING/MANILA, Aug 8 (Reuters) – China once more requested the Philippines to tow away a grounded warship – a World War Two-era vessel now used as a navy outpost – from a disputed shoal on Tuesday, after Manila rejected Beijing’s earlier demand.

Tensions have soared between the 2 neighbours over the South China Sea underneath Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with Manila pivoting again to the United States, which helps the Southeast Asian nation in its maritime disputes with China.

The Second Thomas Shoal, which lies inside the Philippines unique financial zone, is house to a handful of troops dwelling aboard the previous warship Sierra Madre. Manila intentionally grounded the vessel in 1999 to strengthen its sovereignty claims.

Manila has repeatedly accused the Chinese coast guard of blocking resupply missions to its troops there, because it did on Aug. 5 when it sprayed a Philippine vessel with a water cannon.

China maintains the Philippines’ occupation of the shoal is prohibited.

The Philippine navy described the Chinese coast guard’s actions on Saturday as “excessive and offensive”. China mentioned the incident was a “warning” and that it has exercised “rational restraint” always.


Security consultants say China’s actions across the atoll level to at least one factor – Beijing needs to take management of Second Thomas Shoal, additionally recognized in China as Renai Reef, and Ayungin in Manila.

“We must reestablish sea control around the shoal because if we don’t control it, our resupply is vulnerable to their coercive tactics,” mentioned Rommel Ong, a maritime safety knowledgeable and retired vice commander of the Philippine Navy.

It was not the primary time the Chinese coast guard has directed a water cannon at a Manila boat, having completed the identical in November 2021.

No one was damage in the course of the Aug. 5 incident, however Philippine officers mentioned on Monday considered one of Manila’s two boats didn’t full its resupply mission. Both have been again in a Philippine port.

China claims sovereignty over nearly the complete South China Sea, which overlaps with the unique financial zones of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Both Ong and Collin Koh, a safety fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, imagine China would assume twice about utilizing outright drive to occupy the shoal lest it triggers a 1951 U.S.-Philippines mutual protection treaty, or spurs the Philippines and different Southeast Asian neighbours to hunt assist from extra-regional powers.

“There’s probably no question about whether China has the means to up the ante here, but more about its willingness over those political risks,” mentioned Koh.

Jonathan Malaya, assistant director basic of the National Security Council, urged China “not to escalate matters” and put Philippines’ lives in danger.


Japan and France, by their embassies in Manila, have expressed concern over China’s current actions and repeated their assist for the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated Beijing’s expansive South China Sea claims.

The Philippine international ministry mentioned on Monday it had been unable to achieve its counterpart for a number of hours in the course of the water cannon incident.

Editing by Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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