Philippine supply boats breach a Chinese coast guard blockade in the hotly contested South China Sea

Aboard the BRP Capra (AP) — As a US Navy aircraft was circling overhead, two Philippine boats breached a Chinese coast guard blockade in a dangerous standoff Tuesday in The disputed South China Sea To deliver food and other supplies to the Filipino forces guarding the disputed shoals.

But at least four Chinese coast guard vessels intercepted two Philippine coast guard vessels that had been escorting supply boats for nearly five hours in the tense standoff near Second Thomas Shoal.

Serious confrontation is the latest outbreak of long-standing territorial disputes In the crowded sea which includes China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. It is an Asian flashpoint and has become a delicate fault line in the rivalry between the United States and China.

The Philippine Coast Guard invited a small group of journalists, including two from the Associated Press, to join its ships that secured the supply boats as part of a new strategy aimed at exposing China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, which Beijing effectively claims. in its entirety.

Unable to do so, a coast guard officer aboard the Capra said a Chinese coast guard vessel came within 46 meters (50 yards) when it crossed the bow of the BRP Capra to obstruct the Philippine coast guard vessel, which quickly maneuvered to avoid collision. It is named because of the official policy.

Capra and another coast guard vessel, BRP Sendangan, were surrounded by four Chinese coast guard vessels and four suspected militia vessels and forced to stop while the other two Filipino boats were delivering supplies to Filipino forces at Second Thomas Shoal, more than 7 km away. (4 miles) away.

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All the Philippine ships sailed away without further incident after delivering supplies and a fresh crew of Filipino sailors to the military outpost aboard a Philippine Navy ship long stranded in the shallow waters.

“We are pleased that the resupply mission succeeded despite all the serious interdiction and other measures,” said the commander. Emmanuelle Danget of Capra told the Associated Press.

Coast Guard spokesman, Commodore Jay Tarriela, condemned the Chinese coast guard blockade and other risky maneuvers as a violation of international regulations aimed at avoiding sea collisions. He added that the Coast Guard will report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Manila on a possible diplomatic protest against China.

The hostilities began on Monday night, when a Chinese coast guard vessel began pursuing Philippine vessels. On Tuesday morning, the two sides asserted their territorial rights in a flurry of radio messages exchanged with a man who identified himself as coming from a Chinese coast guard vessel, warning at one point: “To avoid miscalculation, leave and go away, or else, you will bear full responsibility for all consequences.”

When the Philippine ships did not back down, the Chinese radio communicator warned that because of this “constant violation and provocation, we will take countermeasures”.

Chinese coast guard vessels repeatedly crossed the bow of the two Philippine coast guard vessels at close range. As many as three were later placed in front of the capra, which remained motionless. The Chinese ships also moved perilously close to the log-hulled supply boats, but the two smaller vessels managed to push through the shoals into the shoals.

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Chinese officials at the embassy in Manila did not immediately comment on the meeting. It was not immediately clear why the US Navy deployed the surveillance plane, which hovered overhead for more than three hours while Chinese ships were blocking and monitoring Philippine ships off Second Thomas Shoal. Asked about the deployment of the seaplane, US Embassy spokesman Kanishka Gangopadhyay in Manila said he could not provide details. “What I can say is that all of our military activities in the Philippines are done in full coordination with… Our Filipino allies,” He said.

Philippine security officials said they have received intelligence and surveillance photos taken in the disputed waters from their American counterparts and other foreigners in the past as part of security cooperation.

The United States does not claim sovereignty over the South China Sea, but has declared that freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes, are in its national interest.

After the Chinese coast guard ship I used a water cannon Against a Philippine supply boat on Aug. 5, Washington renewed its warning that it had an obligation to defend its longtime treaty ally if Philippine forces, aircraft and ships came under armed attack, including in the South China Sea.

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