MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Monday accused the Chinese Coast Guard of trying to blockade one of its vessels supporting a resupply mission for troops stationed on an atoll in the disputed South China Sea by pointing a ” military laser” on the crew led boat.
In a statement, the Philippine Coast Guard said the February 6 incident occurred in the second Thomas Shoal when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel pointed the laser at its vessel, temporarily blinding the crew on deck and performing “dangerous manoeuvres”.
“The deliberate blocking of Philippine government vessels delivering food and supplies to our military personnel…is a flagrant disregard and gross violation of the sovereignty rights of the Philippines in this part of the Western Philippine Sea,” the statement said.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China said it was ready to “warmly” settle maritime affairs with the Philippines during President Ferdinand Marcos’ visit to Beijing in January.
Known locally as Ayungin, the Second Thomas Shoal, 195 km (105 nautical miles) off the Philippine province of Palawan, is the temporary home of a small military contingent aboard a rusting vessel.
The 100-meter (330-foot) World War II vessel was intentionally beached on the shoal in 1999 to bolster Manila’s sovereignty claims in the Spratly Archipelago.
China’s reported blocking of a supply mission comes as Marcos said he was open to reaching a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Japan to increase security at sea.
In August, Chinese Coast Guard vessels with Chinese naval militias blocked Philippine Coast Guard vessels securing naval supply boats, according to the Coast Guard statement.
Marcos was in Japan last week for a five-day visit to forge closer security ties with Tokyo, which in December announced its biggest military build-up since World War II, fueled by concerns over aggressive Chinese actions. In the region.
The president’s first visit to Japan since taking office came after he recently granted the United States access to more military bases in the Philippines as part of a VFA, a move which, according to the China, has undermined regional stability and eased tensions. The VFA provides rules for the rotation of thousands of American soldiers inside and outside the Philippines for exercises.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies)
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