The United States called on China to stop its “provocative and risky behavior” in the South China Sea after a Chinese coast guard vessel blocked the passage of a Philippine patrol boat, nearly causing a collision. US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller described the incident as a reminder of the “harassment and intimidation” China has directed toward Philippine vessels in the waterway. Miller added that any attack on the Philippine armed forces would provoke a US response. The incident came two days before Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos met with Vice President Biden at the White House.
China has been claiming sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, despite an international ruling that such a claim has no legal basis. The near-miss in the Spratly Islands is just the latest in a series of incidents between China and the Philippines in this waterway. AFP was among the media that witnessed the incident after being invited to join two Philippine Coast Guard vessels on a six-day patrol of the waters. The Philippine vessels approached the Second Thomas Shoal Reef, known in China as Ren’ai Jiao, in the Spratly archipelago. As the BRP Malapascua, carrying Filipino journalists, approached the shoal, a Chinese coast guard vessel more than twice its size crossed its path. AFP reporters watched the incident from the other Philippine Coast Guard vessel.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the Philippine ships had “intruded” without China’s permission and called it a “premeditated and provocative action.” On the other hand, Manila said routine patrols in its own waters can be neither premeditated nor provocative and that it will continue to conduct the patrols. The incident occurred a day after President Marcos met with the Chinese foreign minister in Manila for talks aimed at defusing tensions in the waterway. Marcos has stated that he will not allow China to trample on Philippine rights at sea and has sought to strengthen defense ties with the US.
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