Ships of the China Coast Guard and maritime militia deployed water cannons against a vessel of the Philippines and subjected another boat "to extremely reckless and dangerous harassment at close proximity." The Philippine ships were headed for the Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). They were on a resupply mission on Friday morning, November 10.
The Philippines condemned "China's latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers" that "put the lives of our people at risk." A statement from the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea "firmly [insisted] that Chinese vessels responsible for these illegal activities leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal immediately."
The Philippine vessels were manned by navy and coast guard personnel and a few journalists were on board. They were on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippines' outpost at the shoal.
China's Falsified Claims
The Second Thomas Shoal is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. This was defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. Nevertheless, China continues to claim practically the entire South China Sea. This is despite a 2016 ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague that the major elements of China's claim were unlawful.
"The Philippine Embassy in Beijing has demarched the Chinese foreign ministry and protested these actions. The Department of Foreign Affairs has also reached out to them and conveyed our protest directly through the Maritime Communications Mechanism," the Philippine task force said.
Friday's incident was the latest of the documented provocation by China since Ferdinand Marcos Jr became president, and already the seventh in 2023 alone.
Tracking Ramped Up Chinese Aggression
Marcos had shifted Manila's foreign policy back to the West and other democratic allies. Before Marcos, the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte kowtowed to China, saying the arbitral award that the Philippines won was "just a piece of paper" that he would "throw in a waste basket," and declaring his "love" for Xi Jinping.
About three weeks earlier, Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels reportedly rammed Philippine resupply boats going to the same shoal. Official statements, though, only characterized the incidents as "collisions."
In February 2023, China trained a military-grade laser on a Philippine Coast Guard vessel. In August 2022, only the second month of Marcos' presidency, the Chinese Coast Guard also deployed water cannons against the Philippines' resupply boats.
"Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others," the statement of the Philippine task force said.
"The Philippines will not be deterred from exercising our legal rights over our maritime zones, including Ayungin Shoal which forms part of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. We demand that China demonstrate that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community," the statement continued.
Japan's Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa called for "a free and open maritime order." He emphasized, "Actions which increase tensions are not tolerated."
We give high importance to a free & open maritime order based on the rule of law as JP-PHdiscussed during PM visit last week. Any harassment & actions which increase tensions are not tolerated. pic.twitter.com/4LO2CEBPF5— Ambassador of Japan in the Philippines (@AmbJPNinPH) November 10, 2023
The envoys of four other G7 countries also posted statements calling for the enforcement of the rule of law.
Ambassador of France to the Philippines Marie Fontanel:
On the occasion of my 1st meeting with Admiral Gavan Commandant @coastguardph, I reaffirmed 🇫🇷 continuous support to the 🇵🇭 Coast Guards. Today again the resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre faced dangerous deliberate obstacles in 🇵🇭 EEZ but was eventually successful. pic.twitter.com/80gVDtN9Gv— Marie Fontanel 🇨🇵🇵🇭 (@MarieFontanel67) November 10, 2023
Ambassador Dr Andreas Michael Pfaffernoschke of Germany to the Philippines:
In view of today's event in the South China Sea, 🇩🇪 reiterates its support for the 🇵🇭 in advocating respect for International law in the South China Sea, as an essential pillar for peace and security. pic.twitter.com/9s7dtIsRd3— Ambassador Andreas Pfaffernoschke (@germanyinphl) November 10, 2023
Laure Beaufils, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Philippines:
🇬🇧 notes unsafe conduct again experienced by 🇵🇭 vessels on their resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal. We join 🇵🇭 in calling out actions that undermine peace & stability in SCS. We are commited to UNCLOS, under which 2016 Arbitral Award is final & legally binding on both parties.— Laure Beaufils 🇬🇧 (@LaureBeaufils) November 10, 2023
US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Loss Carlson:
Despite continued PRC harassment, the Philippines successfully and lawfully resupplied its forces on the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal, located wholly within the 🇵🇭 EEZ. 🇺🇸 and 🇵🇭 stand together as #FriendsPartnersAllies for a #FreeAndOpenIndoPacific.— Ambassador MaryKay L. Carlson (@USAmbPH) November 10, 2023
The ambassadors of the European Union and Australia also called for international law to be observed and respected.
Ambassador Luc Véron, Delegation of the EU to the Philippines:
HK Yu, Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines:
Australia is again concerned by dangerous conduct, including the use of water cannons, by China's vessels in the Philippines' EEZ. Upholding international law, especially UNCLOS, is fundamental to international peace and security. We call for UNCLOS to be respected. pic.twitter.com/525C9IE1qh— HK Yu PSM (@AusAmbPH) November 10, 2023
Japan-Philippines Boosting Defense Partnership
The November 10 incident occurred almost a full week after the Philippines and Japan agreed to boost their defense partnership. "[U]nilateral attempts to change the status quo by force should never be tolerated," their two leaders agreed. It was an obvious reference to China's actions in the South China Sea.
The Philippines also held joint coast guard exercises with Japan and the United States in early June. Those came just a few days after the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard's spokesperson on the West Philippine Sea and adviser to the Commandant on Maritime Security Affairs posed a pointed question to Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu:
You mentioned China wants to promote dialogue over confrontation, so my question is about the apparent disconnect between China's words and actions related to its maritime interactions with the Philippines and perhaps with others in the region.
For example, when President Marcos and President Xi met in Beijing, they agreed to manage differences through peaceful means, and to promote freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, and reached consensus on the peaceful resolution of disputes on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
But in the same month, Filipino fishermen who were simply fishing in Philippine EEZ were harassed and driven away by China Coast Guard. The following month, your Coast Guard directed a military-grade laser into @coastguardph vessel inside Philippine EEZ. So while China is talking about dialogue, China's actions show confrontation. Thus, my question is… why is there a big difference between China's words and actions?
US Ambassador Calls Out China's Double-speak
Tarriela's question impressed US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel for calling out "China's double-speak."
"While China is talking about dialogue, its actions show confrontation." I couldn't have said it better myself. At the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Philippine Coast Guard set the record straight on China's double-speak. China may be in the neighborhood, but nobody wants it as a… pic.twitter.com/v7hgs20B4Y— ラーム・エマニュエル駐日米国大使 (@USAmbJapan) June 5, 2023
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Author: JAPAN Forward