China Claims Coast Guard Forced US Ally out of Chinese Waters

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A weeks-long information war between China and the Philippines continued on Friday as both sides asserted sovereign rights near one of Asia’s most contested maritime flashpoints.
The Chinese coast guard said it took lawful measures to forcefully expel a Philippine fisheries bureau boat that had ignored repeated warnings since Thursday and “insisted on intruding” into waters around Scarborough Shoal, according to its spokesperson, Gan Yu.
Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela contradicted the Chinese account and said the government vessel was maintaining a “persistent presence” at the China-controlled territory—known as Huangyan Island in Beijing and Bajo de Masinloc in Manila.
This photo taken on February 16 shows Philippine fishermen aboard their wooden boats, center left and second left, and Philippine fisheries bureau personnel aboard their rigid hull inflatable boat, front center, sailing past a Chinese… This photo taken on February 16 shows Philippine fishermen aboard their wooden boats, center left and second left, and Philippine fisheries bureau personnel aboard their rigid hull inflatable boat, front center, sailing past a Chinese coast guard ship, top, near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal, in disputed waters of the South China Sea. The China Coast Guard said it forcefully expelled the Philippine boat from Scarborough Shoal on February 23, but Manila says its vessel remains in the waters. More TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images
The China coast guard has no publicly available contact information. The Chinese Defense Ministry could not be reached for comment.
Gan said the Chinese side was “rational and restrained,” but it reserved the right to “take additional control measures” to protect China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the area.
China’s leaders have long relied on unspecified historical rights to justify the country’s sweeping claims to all of the physical features in the South China Sea, through which vital shipping lanes carry trillions of dollars worth of goods each year.
The Philippines—a long-time ally the United States is treaty-bound to defend—lost de facto control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 during a standoff with the Chinese navy. American forces did not to intervene.
Manila took Beijing to court in The Hague over the dispute, and in 2016 an international tribunal ruled against the Chinese claims, which were found to be inconsistent with the U.N. Law of the Sea treaty, commonly called UNCLOS. The Chinese government ignored the verdict, leaving the Philippines with little recourse.
The submerged reef is located about 120 miles from Philippine shores—within its exclusive economic zone—and almost 700 miles from the nearest Chinese province. There are concerns that China could build and militarize a man-made island there, just as it has done in at least three locations in the contested Spratly Islands archipelago.
After diplomatic protests from Manila to Beijing largely fell on deaf ears, the recent flare-ups around the reef came amid the Philippine government’s first concerted effort in recent years to assert sovereignty and traditional fishing rights in the area.
The White House has repeated its commitment to defend Philippines forces against an armed attack, including in the South China Sea, and the U.S. has sent military assets to the area in a show of resolve. China says the Philippines has roped in an extra-regional power to stir up trouble.
Ongoing Philippine patrols at Scarborough Shoal were to “ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen in the area and to safeguard them from further harassment,” said Tarriela, the coast guard spokesperson. The fisheries bureau was distributing fuel to fisherfolk “to support their prolonged fishing activities,” he said.
@jaytaryela is correct, of course. The 🇵🇭#Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources (@bfarph) vessel BRP Datu Sanday remains on station at Scarborough Shoal as of this evening. It has lots of company, but clearly has not been “repelled” by the 🇨🇳#China Coast Guard. https://t.co/KlySle6Kie pic.twitter.com/97l4mFscWT — Ray Powell (@GordianKnotRay) February 22, 2024
Ship-tracking data shared to X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday by Ray Powell, director of the Stanford-affiliated SeaLight project, showed the Philippine government boat still operating around the shoal, after the Chinese coast guard released a previous similar statement claiming an expulsion.
Manila last week announced the start of “rotational deployment” at Scarborough Shoal, with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy alternating by each sending vessels to the area for about a week.

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