Philippines and China: Spratly Islands conflict

BA confrontation between two ships belonging to the Chinese and Philippine Coast Guards in the South China Sea almost resulted in a collision. According to the Ministry of Defense in Manila, the Chinese ship exposed the Filipino crew to a “serious danger”. The incident reportedly happened last Sunday.

Jochen Stahnke

Political correspondent for China, Taiwan and North Korea based in Beijing.

Ministry spokeswoman Teresita Daza said the Chinese ship came within a few dozen meters of the Philippine patrol boat BRP Malapascua on the Second Thomas Shoal, a reef just under water in the Spratly group of islands. China on Friday accused the Philippine Coast Guard of “deliberately provocative actions.”

The incident was followed by several journalists who first boarded this and another Philippine patrol boat as part of a publicity offensive by the Philippine Coast Guard. Video footage shows the much larger Chinese ship passing in front of the BRP Malapascua. The commanding officer Rodel Hernandez spoke to the agency AFP of a meeting between “David and Goliath”. “We would have collided in the bow if I hadn’t turned off the engine and backed up,” Hernandez said. The Philippine Coast Guard accused the Chinese ships of “aggressive tactics”.

Beijing: “Deliberate act of provocation”

Beijing’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning declared the reef, called Ren’ai in China and Ayungin in the Philippines, as “part of China’s Spratly Islands.” She said on April 23, two Philippine Coast Guard vessels “entered the waters of Ren’ai Reef without permission from China.” The ships took “deliberately provocative measures to approach the Chinese Coast Guard vessel.” The Chinese Coast Guard ships “protect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime order in accordance with the law.” Mao called the Philippine ship’s reporters on board a “deliberate act of provocation.” China protests against it. It called on the Philippines to respect China’s territorial sovereignty and “not to take any action that complicates the situation.”

China’s Coast Guard is the largest coast guard in the world in terms of the number of vessels. Since 2018, it is no longer part of China’s civilian oceanic administration, but is under the command of the Central Military Commission, China’s top military decision-making body, which is led by state and party leader Xi Jinping. It can therefore be assumed that the coast guard will also be used for strategic military purposes.

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