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Philippines summons Beijing envoy over South China Sea water cannon attack

Philippines summons Beijing envoy over South China Sea water cannon attack

Following an incident where the Chinese Coast Guard allegedly wounded three Filipino soldiers with a water cannon attack in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines has taken action by summoning Beijing’s envoy.

In a statement on Monday, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs expressed its “strong protest against the aggressive actions” taken by China’s Coast Guard and maritime militias near the Second Thomas Shoal. Manila has instructed its mission in Beijing to lodge a formal complaint over the incident.

This move came after Philippines’ National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano reported that the confrontation resulted in injuries to three Filipino soldiers and severe damage to the Unaizah May 4 vessel. The extent and nature of their injuries were not disclosed, although the military stated that the personnel received treatment on board a coastguard escort ship.

The Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin in the Philippines, has been a site of repeated confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels over the past year. This recent incident marked the second time Unaizah May 4 has been damaged by a water cannon assault from the Chinese coastguard in March. Since 1999, the shoal has been occupied by a small contingent of the Philippine Navy and marines on a marooned warship, surrounded by Chinese coastguard and suspected militia vessels in a tense territorial standoff.

Despite an international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis, China claims almost the entire South China Sea, disregarding rival claims from other countries, including the Philippines. China’s Ministry of National Defense warned the Philippines against “provocative” actions in the South China Sea and pledged to safeguard Beijing’s territorial sovereignty.

The repeated confrontations at sea have raised concerns that they could escalate into a larger conflict involving China and the Philippines’ treaty ally, the United States. The U.S., while not claiming ownership over the South China Sea, has conducted “freedom of navigation” operations, deploying Navy ships and fighter jets, which China has criticized. The U.S. has also reiterated its obligation to defend the Philippines if its forces, ships, or aircraft come under attack, including in the South China Sea.

In response to the incident, a U.S. State Department spokesman condemned China’s actions, stating that the U.S. “stands with its ally the Philippines” and denouncing the “dangerous actions” by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea.

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