The Philippines has accused China of conducting “dangerous manoeuvres” in the disputed South China Sea after a Chinese navy ship shadowed a Philippine navy vessel and tried to cross its path.
The Philippines said the incident took place on October 13 near Thitu Island, known as Pag-asa Island in the Philippines, after the BRP Benguet issued a radio warning to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Ship 621.
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The PLAN ship then shadowed the Benguet, which was on a resupply mission, before attempting to cross the ship’s bow at a distance of 320 metres (350 yards), the Philippines Armed Forces said in a statement on Facebook.
It also posted a video of the encounter.
Thitu, part of the Spratly Islands chain, was occupied by the Philippines in the 1970s and is now home to as many as 400 people.
“These [dangerous] manoeuvres pose significant risks to maritime safety, collision prevention, and danger to human lives at sea,” Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, the chief of Western Command, said in the statement. “China must immediately halt these unsafe actions and conduct themselves in a professional manner by adhering to international law.”
The Philippines and China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, have had several encounters in recent months in areas within Manila’s 200-nautical-mile (370km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
General Romeo Brawner, the chief of staff of the Philippines Armed Forces, urged China to stop its “dangerous manoeuvres and aggressive actions towards Philippine vessels”, which he said risked causing a collision and endangering “the lives of maritime personnel from both sides”.
Several incidents have also been reported at Second Thomas Shoal during resupply missions to the Sierra Madre, which the Philippines deliberately grounded on the reef in 1999 in an attempt to bolster its claim to the waters. The shoal lies about 195km (121 miles) northwest of the Philippine province of Palawan.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in 2016 that China’s claim to the South China Sea had no legal basis but Beijing has ignored the decision, expanding and developing military outposts in the disputed waters and deploying its fishing fleets, maritime militia and coast guard to assert its claim.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim all or parts of the South China Sea.
The statement from the Philippines described Beijing’s presence near Thitu Island as “illegal” and said its actions breached international law.
Source: Al Jazeera