Filipino supply ship reaches troops in China’s protected shallows

Manila, Philippines — The Philippine Navy succeeded in transporting food to the Philippine Navy guarding the disputed shallows in the South China Sea on Tuesday. , Officials said.

Defense Minister Delphin Lorenzana said two wooden boats carrying Navy personnel had arrived at government troops stationed on a second Thomas Shoal warship without major incidents. President Rodrigo Duterte strongly condemned China’s blockade of supply vessels last week at a regional summit led by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

However, Lorenzana said the China Coast Guard deployed an inflatable raft with three officials and took pictures and videos of the delivery while Philippine Navy officials were unloading supplies from the boat. “I told the Chinese ambassador that I see these acts as a form of intimidation and harassment,” Lorenzana said.

The Secretary of Defense said the supply vessel arrived in the shallows without Philippine escorts at the request of the Chinese ambassador to Manila, who guaranteed that it would never be blocked by Lorenzana over the weekend.

However, when the supply ship arrived in the remote shallow water around noon, a Filipino military aircraft flew in. This shallow water was surrounded by Chinese surveillance vessels in a long-standing territorial conflict. The Philippine Coast Guard also patrols the waters miles away, and military officials at Manila’s headquarters carefully monitored the 30-hour journey of the supply vessel, officials said.

The Philippines states that the shallows are in an internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, but claims that China has sovereignty over and the right to protect it.

Authorities said the Philippine government “angered, blamed the incident,” after two Chinese coast guards blocked two Philippine vessels on November 16 and a third coast guard sprayed a high-pressure stream. He said he had informed China of the “protest.” Boats forced to discontinue their mission.

Philippine Foreign Minister Theodoro Lopecin Jr. warned China that supply vessels are subject to the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States. Washington later stated that he was on the side of the Philippines “in the face of this escalation that directly threatened regional peace and stability,” and that “an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea promised US mutual defense. It will cause it. ” 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, responded to the Philippine protest by saying that the Chinese Coast Guard upheld China’s sovereignty after a Philippine ship entered China’s waters at night without permission.

Duterte, who has fostered close ties with China, did not comment on China’s actions until Monday, when it raised the issue at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China’s summit.

“We hate recent events at Ayungin Shawl and see other similar developments with serious concern,” Duterte said using the name of the Filipino shawl. “This doesn’t talk much about the relationship between our country and our partnership.”

Diplomats told The Associated Press that Xi did not respond directly to Duterte’s remarks, but ensured that China would not bully its small neighbors or seek control of Southeast Asia.

China’s increasingly aggressive actions in disputed waters have been protested by coastal states, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

This was the latest rekindling of a long-simmering conflict in strategic waterways where China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have made overlapping claims. China turned seven shallows into missile-protected island bases, consolidating its claims and increasing tensions.

Jim Gomez

Associated Press