HomeNewsChina Coast Guard becoming 'more aggressive': Philippines

China Coast Guard becoming ‘more aggressive’: Philippines

China’s coast guard has become more aggressive towards Philippine vessels in the South China Sea and its water cannon attacks could threaten the lives of crew, a government spokesman in Manila warned Wednesday.

A series of high-seas incidents involving the two countries have injured a number of Philippine troops in recent months as the neighbors asserted rival claims over waters, reefs, and rocks in the strategic waterway.

In the latest incident on Tuesday, the Philippines said one of its coast guard vessels and another government boat sustained damage from a water cannon fired by the China Coast Guard near Scarborough Shoal.

The water pressure was far more powerful than in previous incidents, and tore or bent metal sections and equipment on the Philippine vessels, said Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela, Manila’s spokesman on the South China Sea.

“Obviously that would be very fatal,” the official said, describing the water pressure as 200 pounds per square inch (14 kilograms per square centimeter).

However, he said there were no casualties this time as the crew were ordered to take shelter inside.

“The Chinese Coast Guard now has elevated the tension and the level of their aggression as well towards the Philippine Coast Guard,” Tarriela said.

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China claims almost the entire South China Sea, brushing off rival claims from other countries, including the Philippines, and an international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.

Scarborough Shoal has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.

The triangular chain of reefs and rocks lies 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900 kilometers from Hainan, the nearest major Chinese land mass.

On Tuesday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian told reporters the China Coast Guard took “necessary measures” against Philippine vessels that infringed on Beijing’s territory.

These measures were “in accordance with the law, and the way it handled the situation was professional,” Lin said according to transcripts released by the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Tuesday’s incident came as the Philippines and the United States held a major annual military exercise that has infuriated Beijing.

Manila and Washington have a mutual defence treaty and recent confrontations between Philippine and Chinese vessels have fuelled speculation of what would trigger it.

Top US officials have repeatedly said that “an armed attack” against Philippine public vessels, aircraft, armed forces or coastguard anywhere in the South China Sea would invoke the treaty.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said last month that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had given assurances that the treaty would be invoked if another “foreign power” killed a Filipino soldier.

Tarriela said Wednesday the Philippine Coast Guard did not consider Tuesday’s Scarborough Shoal incident an “armed attack”.

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