Two Chinese vessels shadowed Philippine, US ships — AFP

January 5, 2024 - 10:40 AM
934
A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen blocking the direction of a Philippine Coast Guard ship conducting a resupply mission for Filipino troops stationed at a grounded warship in the South China Sea, October 4, 2023. (Reuters/Adrian Portugal/File Photo)

 Two Chinese navy vessels shadowed Philippines and U.S. ships conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea, the Philippine military said on Thursday, as tensions flare in the region over disputed territorial claims.

“We confirm the presence of two PLA-N (People’s Liberation Army Navy) vessels from a distance shadowing the participants of the Maritime Cooperative Activity,” said Xerxes Trinidad, chief of the Philippine military’s public affairs office.

The two-day maritime exercises involving Manila and Washington, which ended as planned on Thursday, were the second in less than two months in the West Philippine Sea – what Manila calls the waters in the South China Sea that fall within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The activities followed Beijing’s warning to the Philippines that any miscalculation in their escalating dispute in the South China Sea would bring a resolute response.

“We are hoping that China and other foreign countries will respect our sovereignty and right to conduct the activity that is following international law,” Trinidad said.

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately comment.

The joint patrols were underway when China’s military said it would conduct routine patrols with its naval and air forces in the South China Sea from Wednesday to Thursday but did not say where exactly the patrols would be held.

Beijing and Manila have traded accusations in recent months over several run-ins in the South China Sea, including charges that China rammed a ship last month carrying the Philippine armed forces chief of staff.

The Philippine military said on Wednesday that their second joint patrol this week involved four vessels from the Philippine navy and four ships from the U.S. Indo-Pacific command that included an aircraft carrier, a cruiser and two destroyers.

China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual commerce carried by ship, including waters claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China’s claims had no legal basis, but China has rejected that ruling.

— Reporting by Karen Lema and Mikhail Flores, Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson