39.1 C
New Delhi
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Tensions escalate in South China Sea as Beijing asserts against Philippines

Manila, Philippines, October 07:   In the vast expanse of the South China Sea, a near collision between a Philippine coastguard boat and an imposing Chinese vessel escalated new geopolitical tensions. The crew of the BRP Sindangan, eyes fixed on the radar, watches as the Chinese ship closes in, nearly bringing the two vessels within a meter of catastrophe.

Amid the rising tension, the captain of the BRP Sindangan decides to cut engine power and engage reverse throttle. Via megaphone, China’s coastguard warns the Filipino crew to depart, but the Filipino response remains resolute: “In accordance with international and Philippine national laws, we are proceeding. Request to stay clear from our passage.”

Such nerve-wracking encounters, witnessed by a Reuters journalist about 100 miles off the Philippines, are becoming increasingly common in the South China Sea.

These incidents illustrate China’s determination to assert ownership over nearly the entire expanse of these contested waters, where it currently holds sway.

The Philippine coastguard ship’s mission, symbolic in nature, involves escorting smaller boats to the Second Thomas Shoal. These boats carry vital supplies to a small garrison stationed on the Sierra Madre, a World War Two navy vessel intentionally grounded on the reef a quarter-century ago.

This persistent Philippine presence aboard the aging ship has irked China, turning the Second Thomas Shoal into a strategic battleground. Beijing deploys its more modern coastguard ships and clusters of fishing boats, some as far as 620 miles from the Chinese coast, to assert dominance.

Only 800 meters away from this taut standoff, a grey navy ship begins shadowing the Sindangan, joining the four Chinese coastguard vessels and five other boats suspected by the Philippines of being a militia.

The Sindangan keeps a cautious distance as the supply boats forge ahead, covering the remaining nine miles to reach the troops stationed on the Sierra Madre.

China has condemned the resupply mission, citing intrusion into its waters in the Spratly Islands without permission. In the past, Beijing had demanded the Philippines tow the grounded ship away from the atoll.

The South China Sea remains a strategic flashpoint where miscalculations can have dire consequences.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have escalated this year, coinciding with strengthened military cooperation between Manila and Washington. Beijing has expressed concern that these developments risk exacerbating regional tensions.

Underpinning this situation is the Philippines and the United States Mutual Defense Treaty, with the Pentagon pledging to protect the Philippines should its coastguard come under attack anywhere in the South China Sea.

Jay Tarriela of the Philippine Coastguard asserts his nation’s right to operate freely in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and accuses China of violating international law. He stated, “They have carried out dangerous maneuvers and blocking operations to prevent our routine operations in providing supplies for our military troops.”

- Advertisement -

More articles

- Advertisement -

Latest article

- Advertisement -

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.