A Chinese Coast Guard ship caused a near collision in the South China Sea last Sunday when it blocked a Philippine patrol in disputed waters around the Spratly Archipelago, the BBC reported.
According to the BBC, the encounter, which occurred in the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Archipelago, happened just one day after Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. met in Manila with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
China’s claim that it owns the territorial rights to most of the South China Sea has alarmed the United States and its allies in the region. The Spratly Archipelago is claimed by both China and the Philippines.
The stand-off occurred as the United States and the Philippines were wrapping up their largest-ever military exercises in the South China Sea.
At dawn on April 23, the Philippine patrol observed the Chinese ship that was shadowing their vessels increase speed. When the Chinese ship caught up with one Philippine vessel, it blocked the way refusing to move. This forced the Philippine vessel to shut down its engines to avoid colliding with the Chinese ship.
The Chinese Coast Guard ship came about 146 feet to the Philippine vessel due to a “sudden” and “very dangerous maneuver,” according to Philippine patrol commander Rodel Hernandez.
After a stand-off that lasted about half an hour, the Philippine patrol vessels turned away, unable to complete their mission.
Philippine officials argue is within their authority to patrol the region, according to the Philippine Foreign Ministry. But Beijing accused the Philippines of intruding on Chinese territorial waters.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela told the BBC that China has been using shadowing tactics like this for quite some time. But because the BBC was on hand during the April 23 incident, “the whole world gets to see it.”
Tensions in the region have been mounting in recent months, as China has been flexing its muscles in response to the increased US presence in the region. Last month, the US gained access to key military bases in the Philippines that face Taiwan.