China says Philippine vessel ‘illegally’ landed on disputed atoll

February 4, 2024 - 9:34 AM
An aerial view shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023 (File Photo via Reuters)

 China said on Saturday a small civilian vessel from the Philippines had “illegally placed itself on the beach” of an atoll in the South China Sea that both countries claim.

The vessel, which landed on the Spratly Islands atoll on Friday, was there for supply purposes, the China Coast Guard posted on the Weixin platform.

The Philippines‘ coast guard, national security council, and foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

The Philippines has stationed a small number of troops on World War Two ship it grounded in 1999 as an outpost to reinforce its sovereignty claim over the Second Thomas Shoal, known as Ayungin in the Philippines and the Renai Reef in China.

Manila refused Beijing’s requests last year to tow the vessel away in the row that has soured relations between the two Asian nations.

China asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including areas claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 China’s claims had no legal basis.

— Reporting by Engen Tham; Additional Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by William Mallard