China’s attack of Filipino vessels in South China sea causes international outrage

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The government of the Philippines is condemning China’s actions against their vessels in the South China sea following dangerous manoeuvres and aggression by two Chinese Coastal Guard vessels towards Filipino vessels in what has escalated to a diplomatic stand-off.

China is consequently facing increasing global backlash following the release the Philippine’s release of footage displaying a sizeable Chinese Coast Guard vessel using a water spray against a much smaller Philippine boat, which was on a mission to supply a garrison of Philippine marines situated on Second Thomas Shoal over the weekend. This area is within Manila’s exclusive economic zone, but China refers to it as Renai Reef and asserts its own sovereignty over it.

Analysts suggest that this event intensifies an already tense situation and might prompt the United States and its allies to accelerate their plans for joint patrols in the region. China claims that maritime area is theirs and the coastal guard issued a statement defending the Chinese Coastal Guard vessels’ actions.

Additionally, images from the Philippine Coast Guard reveal the Chinese ship dangerously approaching the Philippine Coast Guard vessels that were escorting the resupply boats.

In an official statement shared on its Facebook account on Saturday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) strongly criticized the China Coast Guard’s (CCG) risky maneuvers and unauthorized use of water cannons against the PCG vessels.

By Sunday, Manila’s primary ally, the United States, had condemned the actions taken by China and restated its commitment to uphold the obligations outlined in their mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.

This is not the first time Beijing asserts its “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly the entire expanse of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, along with a majority of the islands contained within it, leading observers to call it a clear “escalation” of tensions.

The area causing tensions encompasses the Spratlys, which Beijing designates as the Nanshas—an archipelago comprised of 100 small islands and reefs. These land formations are also subject to claims, either in full or in part, by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

However, Manila refers to the region as the West Philippine Sea. In 1999, the deliberate grounding of a navy transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, on Second Thomas Shoal was executed by the Philippines. This action was carried out by Filipino marines to reinforce the country’s territorial assertion in the area.

The claims made by Manila are upheld by the international Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In 2016, the court ruled that China lacks a legal foundation to lay claim to historical rights over the majority of the South China Sea. A ruling Beijing has chosen to disregard.

Both analysts and Philippine politicians have deemed the incident on Saturday as a progression from the series of clashes between China and the Philippines this year. These confrontations include a Chinese ship targeting a Philippine vessel with a laser in February, followed by a sequence of close encounters or near collisions.

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