Tensions Rise in South China Sea: A Standoff at Second Thomas Shoal

Philippine troops on a grounded warship at Second Thomas Shoal held their weapons during a tense encounter with Chinese coast guard boats. The clash occurred amidst resupply operations, leading to accusations and denials from both sides regarding provocative actions. The incident underscores ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea.


Reuters | Updated: 04-06-2024 15:04 IST | Created: 04-06-2024 15:04 IST
Tensions Rise in South China Sea: A Standoff at Second Thomas Shoal
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Philippine troops stationed on a warship grounded on a disputed South China Sea shoal held on to their weapons after Chinese coast guard boats came very close to the ship but they did not point their guns at them, military officials said on Tuesday. Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Romeo Brawner disputed an account by China's state CCTV of what transpired during a routine resupply mission for Filipino troops on May 19.

CCTV had reported at least two Filipino personnel pointed guns in their coast guards' direction during the confrontation at the BRP Sierra Madre, the vessel Manila grounded on Second Thomas Shoal and turned into a garrison in 1999. "It was just in preparation for self-defence in case something happens because they were very close," Brawner told a press conference, describing the actions of the China Coast Guard as "provocative."

Military officials said Chinese rigid hull inflatable boats came within five to 10 meters of the beached Sierra Madre, and seized some of the supplies that were air dropped for troops, actions they said were illegal and unacceptable. "This was a cause of alarm. So our soldiers as a precautionary measure, held on to their firearms. It is part of the rules of engagement," Brawner said.

"We are denying that any of our soldiers pointed deliberately their guns at any of the Chinese ... But we will not deny the fact that they were armed." Brawner said the Sierra Madre, a Second World War-era warship purposely grounded on the reef, is a commissioned vessel of the Philippine navy so it is authorised to have weapons.

"We have the right to defend ourselves," Brawner said, adding the Philippines would continue to assert its sovereignty in the area. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which includes Second Thomas Shoal. It has deployed hundreds of vessels to patrol the waterway, including what Manila refers to as "Chinese maritime militia," which it said were also present on May 19.

China's foreign ministry said the Philippines' actions at the shoal, which it calls Renai Reef, were illegal. "On this issue the Philippines is the one who makes frequent infringements and provocations," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a briefing on Tuesday.

"The Philippines sending vessels to Ren'ai is in itself illegal, the Philippines is escalating the situation and we cannot accept it."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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