China and the Philippines traded accusations over a collision in disputed waters of the South China Sea as Chinese vessels blocked Philippine boats supplying forces there on Sunday in the latest of a series of maritime confrontations.
The two countries have had numerous run-ins in the South China Sea in recent months, especially in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands.
The Philippines has sent supplies to troops stationed on a rusted World War Two-era transport ship used as an outpost on the shoal, prompting China’s coastguard to repeatedly deploy vessels to block the resupply missions.
In the incident early on Sunday, China’s coastguard said there had been a “slight collision” between one of its ships and the Philippine boat while the coastguard was “lawfully” blocking the boat from transporting “illegal construction materials” to the warship.
Manila responded by condemning “in the strongest degree” the “dangerous blocking manoeuvres” of the Chinese vessel.
China’s “dangerous, irresponsible and illegal actions” were “in violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction”, Manila’s Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China’s claims had no legal basis.