Mounting tension continues

Chinese and Philippine vessels faced off in back-to-back clashes in contested waters in the South China Sea throughout the weekend as tensions heightened in the dispute between the two countries over maritime territory.

The Philippines’ sea task force said its vessels were damaged after being “directly targeted” yesterday by a Chinese coast guard ship with a water cannon during a supply mission to Second Thomas Shoal.

A Filipino boat was also said to have been rammed by a Chinese vessel, it said in a statement.

China’s Coast Guard said the Philippine boat ignored warnings and “deliberately collided” with its vessel, which was sailing normally for law enforcement purposes.

The responsibility lies entirely with the Philippines, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The latest incident occurred a day after Manila reported that the Chinese Coast Guard fired water cannons at Filipino civilian ships near Scarborough Shoal.

Manila and Beijing have been locked in a dispute over maritime territory in the South China Sea and have been involved in tense encounters in contested waters over the past months.

About 200 civilians from the Philippines, including youth leaders and fisherfolk, sailed to the South China Sea yesterday.

The convoy was initially planning to first go to the vicinity of Second Thomas Shoal, but following yesterday’s clash, will now proceed to parts of the Spratly Islands to deliver supplies to fishing communities, the organisers said in a statement.

They will later assess whether they will return to the disputed shoal, said the statement.

The US has pledged to continue bolstering ties with Indo-Pacific allies to counter Beijing’s expansive claims in the crucial waterway.

The Philippines, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, has strengthened its longstanding defence alliance with Washington, expanding access for American soldiers and holding joint patrols in contested waters. — Bloomberg

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