China coast guard water-cannons Philippine ship days after US backs Manila in disputed sea |

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Hong Kong
CNN
 — 

China’s coast guard used water cannon against Philippine boats in a contested area of the South China Sea on Saturday, the latest in a string of maritime clashes between the two countries.

The skirmish comes just days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated Washington’s commitment to defending Philippine access to the vast waterway, which China claims sovereignty over, sparking increasing clashes with its neighbors in recent years.

Video of the incident showed a Philippine civilian vessel taking “heavy damage” from the water cannon, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The AFP also accused the Chinese coast guard of performing a “dangerous maneuver” by crossing the bow of the resupply vessel before using the water cannon.

It said China subsequently installed floating barriers to “prevent further entry of any vessels.”

A Philippine Coast Guard vessel had been “impeded and encircled” by a Chinese coast guard ship and two Chinese “maritime militia” vessels, the agency said, cutting it off from the resupply boat.

The ship was “isolated from the resupply boat due to the irresponsible and provocative behavior of the Chinese maritime forces, who have shown a disregard for the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea,” Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela said in a post on X.

Beijing and Manila have long contested the Second Thomas Shoal, which sits about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan. In the 1990s the Philippines grounded an aging World War II-era navy transport ship called the BRP Sierra Madre on the shoal, to help enforce its claim to the area. The ship is now mostly a rusted wreckage and is manned by Philippine marines stationed on rotation.

Recent clashes have occurred when the Philippines attempts to resupply the forces on the Sierra Madre.

The AFP said it had successfully resupplied the Sierra Madre, though one of the vessels involved in the operation could not continue its course.

In a post on Chinese social media Weibo, China’s coast guard said it had taken “control measures in accordance with the law” against the Philippine ships, which it said had “illegally entered the waters adjacent to Ren’ai Reef.”

Ren’ai Reef is China’s name for the Second Thomas Shoal – an area the Philippines refers to as Ayungin Shoal.

The latest run-in came just four days after Secretary of State Blinken told a news conference in Manila that the United States had an “ironclad commitment” to defending the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Philippine counterpart, Blinken said the allies “have a shared concern about the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) actions that threaten our common vision for a free, open Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Sea and in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.”

Blinken said a mutual defense treaty signed in 1951, under which Washington is bound to defend Manila from attack, is “ironclad” and “extends to armed attacks on the Filipino armed forces, public vessels, aircraft – including those of its coast guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.”

In a confrontation two weeks ago, a Chinese coast guard vessel also used water cannon against a Philippine boat, shattering its glass panel and injuring four sailors.



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