Philippines Says China Fired Water Cannons at Boats Near Shoal
(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines accused China of firing water cannons to prevent its boats from resupplying a South China Sea outpost, even as Beijing pushes for a break through on talks for a code of conduct in the disputed water body.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter Thursday that he had conveyed “our outrage, condemnation and protest” to Chinese counterpart Wang Yi over the incident. Three Chinese coast guard vessels blocked two Philippine boats trying to transport food to soldiers stationed on Second Thomas Shoal on Tuesday, Locsin said.
“I reminded China that a public vessel is covered by the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty,” Locsin said.
Second Thomas Shoal is part of the Spratly chain, where Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping claims. The shoal has been occupied by the Philippines since 1999 and has been the site of previous standoffs between Beijing and Manila.
The number of Chinese vessels near the shoal have increased to 19 from two previously, while there are about 45 vessels near Thitu Island, Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon told reporters on Thursday.
Beijing later said the Philippine supply ships entered what it views as Chinese waters without permission.
“Our coast guards, vessels, upheld China’s sovereignty in accordance with law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular briefing. The area is “generally peaceful and tranquil and the two sides maintain communication.”
The flare-up comes as Beijing pushes for progress with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on talks to establish a non-binding code of conduct in the South China Sea ahead of a summit between the bloc and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month. Next year will mark 20 years of negotiations on the code.
While President Rodrigo Duterte has in recent months sought to mend strained relations with the U.S., whose security support the Philippines relies on to deter Chinese pressure. In July, Duterte rescinded his effort to scrap an agreement that allows American troops to operate in the country.
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