Just one day after similar fighting at another shoal in the South China Sea, the Chinese coast guard attacked three Philippine vessels with water cannon blasts on Sunday and rammed one of them, seriously damaging its engines, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
According to coast guard spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela, the most recent altercation occurred close to Second Thomas Shoal as two supply boats operated by the Philippine Navy and escort ships of the coast guard were travelling to provide food and other supplies to Filipino forces aboard a long-marooned navy ship that acts as a territorial outpost.
Nothing more was said. The Philippine Coast Guard released photos and video from a drone that shows two Chinese coast guard ships firing close-range water cannons at the BRP Cabra, a Philippine coast guard patrol ship, and a smaller supply boat.
Chinese officials refrained from commenting immediately.
In an ongoing attempt to seize control of the fiercely contested atoll that is claimed by both China and the Philippines, Chinese ships have encircled the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal for years, obstructing the Philippine coast guard and supply boats.
The United States, which has promised to defend the Philippines, its treaty ally, if Filipino forces are subjected to an armed attack, is concerned that the hostilities, which have been especially heated this year, could lead to an armed conflict.
To stop three Philippine fishing vessels from approaching Scarborough Shoal in the disputed waters off the northwest coast of the Philippines, the Chinese coast guard and accompanying ships also trained water cannons at them during the confrontation on Saturday.
One of the three Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels’ communication and navigational systems sustained “significant damage” as a result of the attack, according to officials. Japan, the United States, and the Philippines all denounced it.
Along with the deployment of water cannons on Saturday, Philippine officials said that the suspected militia vessels that accompanied the Chinese coast guard ships also used a long-range acoustic device that could cause hearing impairments and cause “severe temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew.”
A Philippine government task force that handles territorial disputes declared on Saturday, “We demand that the Chinese government take immediate action to halt these aggressive activities and uphold the principles of international law and desist from actions that would infringe on Philippine sovereignty and endanger the lives and livelihood of Filipino fishermen.”
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay Carlson, denounced China’s “aggressive, illegal actions.”
Carlson declared, “This behaviour by the Chinese violates international law and endangers lives and livelihood.” “We support a free and open Indo-Pacific along with our friends, partners, and allies in the Philippines.”
According to Philippine officials, in other high-seas skirmishes this year, Chinese coast guard ships engaged in risky blocking and shadowing manoeuvres that resulted in minor collisions, as well as the use of a military-grade laser that momentarily blinded Filipino crew members.
With the support of escort ships from the Philippine Coast Guard, a flotilla of forty civilian fishing boats set out on Sunday to deliver Christmas food packs and other donated supplies to Filipino forces in Second Thomas Shoal and two other Philippine-occupied areas. (AP)