Philippines accuses China of using ‘illegal force’ to deliberately disrupt resupply mission

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The Philippines’ defence chief said China used “aggressive and illegal force” to disrupt a resupply mission in the South China Sea and said the maritime incident on June 17, which injured a sailor, was neither a misunderstanding nor an accident.

“We are not downplaying the incident,” Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told a media briefing after the chairman of the Philippine maritime council said on June 21 that the maritime clash was probably a misunderstanding or an accident.

A Philippine sailor was seriously injured after what the Philippine military described as “intentional high-speed ramming” by the Chinese Coast Guard aiming to disrupt a resupply mission for troops stationed on the Second Thomas Shoal on June 17.

Chinese Coast Guard personnel carrying knives and spears looted firearms and “deliberately punctured” Philippine boats involved in the mission, the Philippine military said.

China’s Foreign Ministry has disputed the Philippines’ account, with a spokesperson saying on June 20 that the necessary measures taken by the coast guard were lawful and professional.

“We see the latest incident in Ayungin not as a misunderstanding or an accident. It is a deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission,” Teodoro said, using the local name for the Second Thomas Shoal.

“It was an aggressive and illegal use of force. We, however, continue to find peaceful solutions to this issue,” he added.

Teodoro said the Philippines will continue to resupply its troops stationed on a rusting warship grounded on Second Thomas Shoal, but it will not publicise schedules of missions, which he said do not require permission nor consent from anyone.

In response to Teodoro’s remarks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on June 24 that the Philippines “should stop its infringement and provocation” and “work with China to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea”.

It also urged Manila to stop “violations” and “misleading the international community”.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on June 23 that the Philippines was not in the business of instigating wars and would always aim to settle disputes peacefully.

The Second Thomas Shoal is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea with its so-called nine-dash line, which overlaps the exclusive economic zones of rival claimants Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling, which Beijing does not recognise, invalidated China’s claim in the strategic waters.

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