Philippines says Chinese vessels hit two of its boats near disputed shoal

A Chinese coast guard ship and a militia vessel collided with a Philippine coast guard ship and a military-run supply boat near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, according to Philippine officials.

The Incident: The Philippine government, describing the actions as dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal, strongly condemned the incident, claiming it violated their sovereignty.
* The U.S. immediately expressed condemnation, with the U.S. Ambassador to Manila stating that the People’s Republic of China’s disruptive actions towards a legal Philippine resupply mission put Filipino service members’ lives at risk.
* This is reportedly the first time Philippine officials have asserted that their vessels were hit by Chinese ships.

Background: Tensions are high around the South China Sea, with frequent near-collisions happening as Philippine vessels regularly deliver supplies to personnel stationed on the disputed shoal.
* Despite ongoing blockades by China, Philippine boats have still managed to deliver supplies to their contingents.
* The territorial disputes involve many nations, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei, and are a potential flashpoint in the U.S.-China rivalry in the region.

Previous Incidents: In August, a Chinese coast guard ship had used a water cannon to prevent a Philippine supply boat from approaching the Second Thomas Shoal.
* The Philippines responded by summoning the Chinese ambassador to convey a strongly worded protest.
* The U.S., obligated to defend the Philippines as a treaty ally, issued a renewed warning, leading to China accusing it of threatening behaviour.

Legal Standoff: In 2016, a UN arbitration ruling invalidated Beijing’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, but China refused to participate, rejected the decision, and continues to defy it.

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