China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the Chinese coast guard’s actions against a Philippine ship in the South China Sea.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr summoned China’s ambassador to express his “serious concern” after reports that a Chinese coast guard ship carried out dangerous maneuvers and used a “military” laser to intercept a Philippine ship in the South China Sea.
The President’s office said Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian was invited to a meeting on Tuesday afternoon during which Marcos Jr criticized the conduct of the Chinese Coast Guard on February 6 near Second Thomas Shoal, known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines.
Marcos Jr referred to the “increasing frequency and intensity of China’s actions against the Philippine Coast Guard and our Filipino fishermen in their banks [small fishing vessels]the latest of which was the deployment of a military laser against our Coast Guard vessels,” the president’s office said.
China has carried out “acts of aggression” in the South China Sea, the Philippines’ foreign ministry said on Tuesday, which were “disturbing and disappointing”, ministry spokeswoman Teresita Daza said.
China’s harassment of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship while on a resupply mission to troops based in Ayungin Shoal threatened the sovereignty and security of the Philippines, the department said.
China’s use of high-powered lasers temporarily blinded the ship’s crew, according to the PCG, and the Chinese ship engaged in dangerous activities that could have caused the collision.
Reuters reported that China’s ambassador to Manila said after a meeting with Marcos Jr. that he discussed the implementation of an agreement between the two countries on the management of maritime disputes at sea, which was reached during the Philippine leader’s recent visit to China.
Asked to respond to claims of aggressive actions by Manila, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said his country’s coast guard acted in a “professional and restrained” manner toward the Philippine ship and denied the version of events relayed by Philippine officials.
“Currently, the relevant waters are generally calm,” Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.
Wang also accused the Philippines and the United States – Manila’s close allies – of engaging in “pure political drama” in taking the case to an international arbitration court that ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis for its territorial claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
He said China would not be intimidated by the US, which also accused China of “provocative and unsafe” behavior in trying to cut off supplies to Philippine troops.
“The US has invoked its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines at every turn in an attempt to intimidate China, but this will not weaken our determination and will to protect China’s legitimate and lawful rights and interests,” Wang added.