U.S. says Chinese Coast Guard is harassing Philippine vessels

The United States called on China to stop harassing Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, pledging to stand with the Philippines at a time of simmering geopolitical tension

April 30, 2023 01:28 am | Updated 01:28 am IST - WASHINGTON

A Chinese Coast Guard ship with bow number 5201 blocks Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Malapascua as it maneuvers to enter the mouth of the Second Thomas Shoal locally known as Ayungin Shoal at the South China Sea on  April 23, 2023. The near-collision was among the tense confrontations encountered by two Philippine government vessels against China, which undertook a weeklong voyage in one of the world’s most hotly contested sea passages to assert Philippine sovereignty.

A Chinese Coast Guard ship with bow number 5201 blocks Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Malapascua as it maneuvers to enter the mouth of the Second Thomas Shoal locally known as Ayungin Shoal at the South China Sea on April 23, 2023. The near-collision was among the tense confrontations encountered by two Philippine government vessels against China, which undertook a weeklong voyage in one of the world’s most hotly contested sea passages to assert Philippine sovereignty. | Photo Credit: AP

The United States on April 29 called on China to stop harassing Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, pledging to stand with the Philippines at a time of simmering geopolitical tension.

"We call upon Beijing to desist from its provocative and unsafe conduct," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The Philippines on Friday accused China's coast guard of "aggressive tactics" following an incident during a Philippine coast guard patrol close to the Philippines-held Second Thomas Shoal, a flashpoint for previous altercations located 105 nautical miles (195 km) off its coast.

The Second Thomas Shoal is home to a small military contingent aboard a rusty World War Two-era U.S. ship that was intentionally grounded in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines' territorial claims. In February, the Philippines said a Chinese ship had directed a "military-grade laser" at one of its resupply vessels.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea with a "nine-dash line" on maps that stretches more than 1,500 km off its mainland and cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. An international arbitral ruling in 2016 dismissed that line as having no legal basis.

China's Foreign Ministry on Friday said the Philippine vessels had intruded into Chinese waters and made deliberate provocative moves.

The State Department said Washington "stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order."

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