China is demanding the Philippines remove a scuttled naval vessel being used as an occupied base from a disputed reef in the South China Sea.
Tuesday’s demand from Beijing comes three days after a Chinese Coast Guard ship fired a powerful water cannon at Philippine naval vessels cruising towards the Second Thomas Shoal on a resupply mission. Manila said the actions of the Chinese coast guard prevented one of the two resupply boats from unloading supplies needed by Philippine troops guarding the shoal onboard a long-marooned navy ship.
China’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling on the Philippines to immediately remove the scuttled vessel from the Second Thomas Shoal and restore it to its previous unoccupied status.
But Jonathan Malaya, a spokesman for the Philippines National Security Council, told reporters Monday that the Philippines “will never abandon our post in Ayungin Shoal,” using the archipelago’s name for Second Thomas Shoal.
The incident is the latest flare-up in the long-simmering territorial conflicts involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea.
China claims ownership over virtually the entire strategic waterway despite international rulings that have invalidated Beijing’s vast territorial claims, such as that of 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international body based in The Hague.
Tensions between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea have risen since President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. took office last year and moved Manila back towards its longtime ally the United States, reversing the direction taken by his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.