US and Philippines Condemn Chinese Coast Guard’s Aggressive Actions

The Philippines and its ally, the United States, have individually condemned a high-seas incident involving the Chinese coast guard and suspected militia ships. The incident occurred off the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, where Chinese vessels aggressively used water cannons to block three Philippine fisheries vessels. This marked one of the most aggressive encounters this year, causing significant damage to the communication and navigation equipment of one Philippine fisheries ship.

The Chinese coast guard, accompanied by suspected militia vessels, reportedly used a long-range acoustic device causing severe temporary discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew members. This incident further exacerbates the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a region where the U.S. and China find themselves on a collision course. While China claims almost the entire waterway, several countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, assert their claims.

Territorial tensions between China and the Philippines, particularly over areas like Scarborough and the Second Thomas shoals, have escalated in recent times. The U.S. has reiterated its commitment to defend the Philippines, a long-standing treaty ally, in the event of an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.

In response to the incident, the Philippine government condemned the “illegal and aggressive actions” of the Chinese coast guard and maritime militia, demanding that China cease such activities and adhere to international law. The U.S. Ambassador to Manila, MaryKay Carlson, joined the condemnation, stating that China’s actions violate international law and endanger lives and livelihoods. The U.S. expressed support for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Chinese coast guard defended its actions, stating that it implemented control measures in line with the law against three Philippine vessels that intruded into waters near Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal). Additionally, it implemented controls against two Philippine coast guard vessels near the Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines asserted that its fisheries bureau’s ships were providing humanitarian aid, including free fuel and Christmas groceries, to Filipino fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal area. The Chinese coast guard’s aggressive actions, including the use of water cannons, installation of a floating barrier, and deployment of personnel to drive away Filipino fishermen, were deemed both illegal and inhumane by the Philippine government.

Past confrontations in the disputed shoals have seen the Chinese coast guard use military-grade lasers causing temporary blindness to Filipino crew members. The Philippines, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has allowed a larger U.S. military presence to strengthen territorial defense in response to China’s aggressive actions.