Chinese and Philippine vessels collided near a disputed reef in the South China Sea as tensions in the waters continue to rise.
Beijing and Manila traded blame for the incident, which took place near Second Thomas Shoal, where Chinese and Philippine vessels have frequent intense encounters. The incidents typically occur when the Philippines attempts to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era ship Manila grounded on the reef in 1999, to assert its claims.
In the incident on Sunday, the Philippines accused the Chinese Coast Guard of firing water cannons and intentionally ramming resupply vessels. For their part, China claimed the Philippine vessels were responsible for the crash.
“The Philippines’ vessel Unaizah Mae 1 ignored multiple serious warnings and infringed the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea by taking a sudden turn in an unprofessional and dangerous way,” the Chinese Coast Guard said.
The collision near Second Thomas Shoal took place a day after a similar encounter between Chinese and Philippine vessels near Scarborough Shoal, another reef in the South China Sea claimed by both sides.
The frequency of such encounters has skyrocketed since Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office last year and began taking a harder line against China’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea than his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. Marcos has taken steps to strengthen Manila’s alliance with the US, but the increased US involvement in the region has not deterred Beijing.
The US has repeatedly stated that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, turning the waters into a potential flashpoint for a war between the US and China.