Chinese vessels use water cannon to block ships – South China Sea tensions erupt

South China Sea belongs to everyone says German naval chief

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The Philippines’ foreign secretary warned on Thursday that its vessels are covered under a mutual defence treaty with the United States.

Teodoro Locsin Jr said no one was hurt in the incident in the disputed waters on Tuesday, but the two supply ships had to abort their mission to provide food supplies to Filipino forces occupying the Second Thomas Shoal, which lies off western Palawan province in the Philippines’ internationally recognised exclusive economic zone.

The incident is the latest flare-up in the long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

China claims virtually the entire waterway has transformed seven disputed shoals into missile-protected island bases to cement its claims, ratcheting up tensions and alarming rival claimants and Western governments led by the US.

Washington has no claims in the busy waterway but has patrolled the region with its Navy vessels and aircraft to assure its allies, including the Philippines, and ensure freedom of navigation and overflight, The Guardian reports.

China has repeatedly warned the US to stay away from the disputed waters and not meddle in what it says is a regional issue.

President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump have repeatedly assured the Philippines that the US will honour its obligation under the two nations’ mutual defence treaty if Philippine forces, ships or aircraft come under attack in the long-disputed region.

Mr Locsin said in a tweet that the three Chinese coastguard ships’ actions were illegal and he asked them “to take heed and back off”.

The Philippine government has conveyed to China “our outrage, condemnation and protest of the incident”, adding that “this failure to exercise self-restraint threatens the special relationship between the Philippines and China” that president Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, had worked hard to nurture.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken had warned China earlier this year that any attack on the Philippines in the disputed area would draw a response under a mutual defence treaty.

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Mr Blinken has said: “Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea.”

He added that China continued “to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway”.

In 2016, China rejected a ruling by an international tribunal over the disputed sea, The Independent reports.

The judgement was overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines and other claimants.

It had declared large areas of the South China Sea to be neutral international waters or exclusive economic zones of other countries.

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