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China and Philippines Trade Blame After Ships Collide in South China Sea

WorldChina and Philippines Trade Blame After Ships Collide in South China Sea

A Philippine Navy sailor was “severely injured” after ships from China and the Philippines collided Monday morning near a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, the Philippine military said on Tuesday, the latest in a series of maritime confrontations that have increased tensions in the vital waterway.

Each side blamed the other for the collision, which occurred between a Chinese vessel and a Philippine supply ship near the Spratly Islands.

Chinese state media said that the Philippine vessel had “ignored multiple stern warnings” and had behaved “dangerously and in an unprofessional manner,” causing the boats to collide. The Philippines said that Chinese naval, coast guard and naval militia vessels had engaged in “illegal and aggressive actions,” including what it called “ramming.”

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay Carlson, condemned what she called China’s “dangerous maneuvers,” saying that they had “caused bodily injury” and damage to the Philippine vessel.

The clash again demonstrated Beijing’s broadening military expansion in the South China Sea, which is rich in natural resources and crucial to international shipping.

China lays claim to the sea in nearly its entirety. But the Philippines, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office two years ago, has been pushing back more forcefully against what it calls Chinese encroachment on its territorial waters.

The Philippine military did not disclose what the injury to the sailor was. But GMA Integrated News, a broadcast network in the country, said that his finger had been cut off and that six other people had also been injured. It also said that China had seized high-power firearms and inflatable boats.

An international court ruled in 2016 that the Second Thomas Shoal, which lies near the site of the collision on Monday, was within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China refused to participate in the tribunal and rejected the ruling.

The shoal, which is less than 200 nautical miles from the Philippine coastline, is home to a crumbling warship, the Sierra Madre. The rusting, symbolic vessel carries a twofold mission: staking the Philippines’ claim to the land and trying to prevent further Chinese incursion.

Over the past decade, China has intensified its naval patrols in an effort to enforce its self-defined boundaries in the South China Sea. In recent months, Chinese militia vessels and coast guard ships have blasted Philippine resupply vessels with water cannons, damaged radars and antennas, and repeatedly struck boat hulls.

Manila’s quest to deter China has pushed the Philippines closer to the United States, Canada and Japan, and also to Vietnam, which is similarly locked in disputes with Beijing over waters off its coast.

Last year, the United States signed an agreement with the Philippines to increase its military presence in the country to the highest level in three decades, hoping to counter China’s growing aggression.

Sui-Lee Wee contributed reporting.

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