South China Sea: Tensions ramp up as Chinese and Philippines boats clash in contested waters

South China Sea: Tensions ramp up as Chinese and Philippines boats clash in contested waters

WATCH: South-China sea collision

Ben Chapman

By Ben Chapman

Published: 24/10/2023

- 18:03

Updated: 24/10/2023

- 20:50

The United States is now threatening to intervene

China and the Philippines risk escalating tensions after vessels from both countries collided off a contested shoal in the South China Sea.

The United States is now threatening to intervene, warning Beijing it would defend The Philippines in the event of an armed attack under a 1951 treaty.

In new footage, Chinese ships are seen blocking and colliding with two Filipino vessels off Second Thomas Shoal on Sunday.

The area is within the 200-mile Philippines exclusive economic zone.

Boats collide in the South China Sea

China and the Philippines have traded accusations after the collision


No injuries were reported, but the incident left one of the Philippines’ coast guard ships damaged.

The Philippines in response accused China of “illegal and dangerous” behaviour and called upon Beijing’s ambassador to visit the country.


China hit back by accusing one of the Philippine boats of “deliberately” stirring up trouble by reversing in a “premeditated manner” into a Chinese fishing vessel.

The US State Department accused Beijing of “dangerous and unlawful” acts in the waterway, adding they “violated international law by intentionally interfering with the Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation”.

Speaking on X, formerly known as Twitter, The US ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay Carlson, told the US condemns China’s :latest disruption of a legal Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, putting the lives of Filipino service members at risk.

“We stand with our friends, partners and allies in protecting Philippine sovereignty and in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”


U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in a call with his Philippine counterpart Eduardo Ano on Monday, reiterated US for Manila following the incident, calling the Chinese maritime actions "dangerous and unlawful," according to the White House.

Philippines Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said during a news conference that "Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels, in blatant violation of international law, harassed and intentionally hit" Manila's supply boat and coastguard ship.

"This is a serious escalation of the illegal activities conducted by the Chinese government in the West Philippine Sea in complete disregard of any norm or convention of international law," Teodoro said after attending a security meeting called by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr

On Monday, China foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that the United States "issued a statement in violation of international law, groundlessly attacking and accusing China's legitimate rights and law enforcement actions".

Mao said the area of the Second Thomas Shoal has always been China's territory.

"Renai Reef is an inseparable part of China's Nansha Islands geographically, economically, politically and historically," Mao said, referring to the names of the Second Thomas Shoal and Spratly Islands by their Chinese names.

Maritime confrontations between Manila and Beijing have become a regular feature in the South China Sea, as both countries assert their territorial claims in the highly strategic waters.

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