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China Coast Guard Vessel Collides With Philippine Supply Boat

A China Coast Guard cutter water-cannons a small Philippine supply boat near Second Thomas Shoal, 2023 (file image courtesy Philippine Coast Guard)
A China Coast Guard cutter water-cannons a small Philippine supply boat near Second Thomas Shoal, 2023 (file image courtesy Philippine Coast Guard)

Published Jun 16, 2024 11:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

On Monday, the China Coast Guard reported a minor collision between one of its patrol vessels and a Philippine replenishment vessel near Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippine military maintains a small garrison. China routinely obstructs Philippine resupply missions to this outpost through the use of water cannon, aggressive maneuvering and shouldering, and minor collisions have occurred before. The area is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but China claims it under its expansive "nine-dash line" policy.

In a statement, the China Coast Guard said that the Philippine supply boat had "illegally broken into" the Philippine EEZ and had approached the Chinese vessel in an "unprofessional way," resulting in a collision.  

Philippine forces have not yet released a response as of early Monday, and the extent of any damage is unknown. The incident is the latest in a long string of run-ins at Second Thomas Shoal, and it coincides with the enactment of new, more aggressive rules of engagement for Chinese forces.  

PLA Navy deploys amphib to Spratly Islands

Separately, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) has deployed a full-size amphibious assault ship to the Spratly Islands for what may well be the first time. The decision is viewed as an escalation in the Philippines, where leaders view China's movements with suspicion. 

According to the Manila Times, a Type 075 PLA Navy amphibious assault vessel has appeared at the Chinese base at Subi Reef, a military installation that China built on reclaimed land atop a former coral atoll. Earlier in the month, on June 4, a Type 071 amphibious assault ship carried out exercises with its embarked hovercraft near Sabina Shoal, an unoccupied island within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.  

"The objective of the PLA Navy's deployment of its amphibious assault ship on June 4, 2024, was to disrupt the activities of civilian Filipino scientists who were conducting a scientific survey in [Sabina Shoal]," said Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela in a statement. "The escalation of tension in the West Philippine Sea is a direct result of China's illegal presence, bullying tactics, and provocative actions."

 

The PLA Navy's new amphibious presence coincides with the entry into force for new rules of engagement for the China Coast Guard, the agency tasked with obstructing Philippine activity in the Spratly Islands. Effective Saturday, the China Coast Guard is empowered to arrest and hold anyone who tries to enter Chinese-claimed waters for up to 60 days, without trial. 

"The Chinese side remains highly vigilant and will continue to take all necessary countermeasures against the dangerous, escalatory acts by the Philippine side," said Chinese defense spokesman Zhang Xiaogang on Friday.