Philippines says sailor sustained serious injury in South China Sea collision

MANILA (Reuters): A Philippine navy sailor suffered "serious injury" after what the country's military called on Tuesday "intentional-high speed ramming" by the Chinese coast guard during a resupply mission in the South China Sea.

The Philippine military said in a statement the Chinese coast guard's "continued aggressive behavior and unprofessional conduct towards a legitimate humanitarian mission is unacceptable."

China and the Philippines have accused each other of being at fault for Monday's collision near a disputed atoll in the South China Sea.

Philippine officials said China disrupted a military mission to resupply sailors stationed in Second Thomas Shoal in a rusting navy ship BRP Sierra Madre that Manila deliberately beached in 1999 to bolster its maritime claim.

China's coast guard disputed this and said the navy vessel deliberately and dangerously approached a Chinese ship in an unprofessional manner, forcing it to take control measures such as "warnings and blockades, boarding inspections, and forced evictions."

The Philippines said China's account was "deceptive and misleading".

The Philippine military said on Tuesday the injured sailor had been successfully evacuated and was being treated. It did not specify the nature of the injury.

Second Thomas Shoal has been a flashpoint in recent months between the countries. The atoll lies within Manila's 200-nautical mile maritime zone, which China also claims as its own.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

A 2016 arbitral ruling rejected China's historical claims to the resource-rich waterway, a decision Beijing has rejected.

The U.S. State Department called the incident the latest in a series of Chinese "provocations" to impede supplies from reaching Philippines personnel stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.

Canada and United Kingdom also condemned China's actions, while France and Japan have expressed concern over the incident.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies) - Reuters

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