China says it ‘lawfully’ blocked Philippine ships going to disputed shoal

October 22, 2023 - 11:02 AM
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BRP Sierra Madre
A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. (Reuters/Erik De Castro/File Photo)

China’s coast guard said on Sunday it “lawfully” blocked Philippine vessels transporting “illegal construction materials” to a warship at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

Over the past few months, China and the Philippines have had numerous run-ins in areas of the South China Sea, most notable the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands.

The Philippines has been sending supplies to troops stationed on a World War Two-era, transport-ship-turned-military outpost on the shoal, prompting the China Coast Guard to repeatedly deploy vessels to block the resupply missions.

Last week, the Philippine military demanded China stop its “dangerous and offensive” actions, after a Chinese navy ship shadowed and attempted to cut off a Philippine navy vessel conducting a resupply mission.

China had warned the Philippines against further “provocations”, saying such acts violated its territorial sovereignty.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, pointing to a dotted line on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China’s claims had no legal basis.

— Reporting by Ethan Wang and Bernard Orr; Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Feast.