Philippines Urges China to Prevent Any ‘Provocative Act’ After Complaint Over Laser

Reuters
By Reuters
February 13, 2023China News
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MANILA—China should restrain its forces to prevent them committing any “provocative act,” the Philippine military said on Monday, after Manila accused China’s coast guard of using a laser to try to disrupt a resupply mission to troops in the South China Sea.

The Philippine coast guard (PCG) said its vessel was assisting a navy mission to deliver food and supplies to troops on an atoll in the disputed waterway on Feb. 6 when a Chinese coast guard ship directed a “military-grade laser” at the ship, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.

“I think it’s time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative act that will endanger the lives of people,” military spokesperson Medel Aguilar told reporters.

Aguilar quoted the Philippine defense chief as saying the Chinese action was “offensive” and unsafe.

The incident took place at the Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles (195 kilometers) off the Philippine province of Palawan. The shoal is home to a small Philippine military contingent on board a rusty ship.

The 100-meter long (330-foot) World War Two ship was intentionally grounded on the shoal, known in the Philippines as Ayungin, in 1999 to reinforce Manila’s sovereignty claims in the Spratly archipelago.

“The deliberate blocking of the Philippine government ships to deliver food and supplies to our military personnel … is a blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights,” the PCG said in a statement.

China’s foreign ministry said in response that its coast guard conducted actions according to the law.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States stood with the Philippines over the reported laser use.

“The PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] conduct was provocative and unsafe,” he said in a statement.

“More broadly, the PRC’s dangerous operational behavior directly threatens regional peace and stability, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order.”

Green Light

The PCG did not elaborate on what a “military grade laser” was but images it supplied showed green light emanating from a Chinese vessel with bow number 5205.

The office of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declined to comment, referring reporters to the PCG statement.

Marcos visited Beijing last month when the Chinese communist regime said it was ready to manage maritime issues “cordially.”

It is not the first time the Chinese regime has been accused of using lasers in the region.

In February last year, Australia accused Chinese regime of an “act of intimidation” after a Chinese navy vessel directed a laser at an Australian military surveillance aircraft.

The reported bid to block the Philippine resupply mission comes as Marcos has expressed openness to forging a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with Japan to boost maritime security.

Marcos visited Japan last week to strengthen security ties.

Close U.S. ally Japan in December announced its biggest military-build up since World War II, fuelled by concern about aggressive Chinese action in the region.

The Philippine president also recently granted former colonial power the United States access to more military bases under a VFA.

The agreement with the United States provides rules for the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines for exercises.

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