The Philippine military has condemned the use of a water cannon by a Chinese coast guard ship to block a Filipino supply boat from delivering new troops and supplies in the disputed South China Sea.
Driving the news: During the blockage incident on Saturday, a Chinese coast guard ship approached a Philippine navy boat that was heading for the Second Thomas Shoal and used a water cannon to prevent them from reaching the claimed territory.
* The incident has escalated long-standing territorial conflicts involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.
Why it matters: The South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, making it a critical fault line in the rivalry between the United States and China.
* This incident reflects a disregard for the safety of people onboard the Philippine boat and is a violation of international law, including the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
* China has long demanded that the Philippines remove its naval forces and decommission the BRP Sierra Madre, a naval ship representing Manila’s territorial claim to the atoll.
The big question: The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has not yet given a formal response, but it has previously filed numerous diplomatic protests against China’s increasing hostilities.
* Chinese government officials have not yet commented on the incident.
The backdrop: The U.S., although it has no claims in the South China Sea, has often criticized China’s aggressive actions and conducted military exercises with regional allies to promote freedom of navigation and overflight.
* Beijing has criticized recent agreements between the U.S. and the Philippines, fearing that giving access to American forces might provide military staging grounds and surveillance outposts near Chinese claimed territories.
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