On October 13, the Philippines alleged that China engaged in dangerous and illegal maneuvers in the South China Sea dispute when a Chinese navy ship closely followed a Philippine navy vessel and attempted to intersect its course near Thitu Island, also referred to as Pag-asa Island in the Philippines, after the BRP Benguet issued a radio warning to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Ship 621.
The crew of the Philippine vessel, which was on its way to a military station as part of a routine rotation and resupply mission, pointed out that the Chinese ship violated collision regulations in their radio communications. They requested the Chinese ship to change its course to avoid a potential collision. In response, People’s Liberation Army Navy Ship 621 mentioned China’s nine-dash line as their justification, according to the statement.
During a routine press conference on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated that the Philippines’ unlawful presence on Zhongye Island constitutes a significant breach of China’s sovereignty. He further said that it is both justifiable and bylaw for Chinese warships to conduct patrols in the vicinity of Zhongye Island.
Scarborough Shoal, located in a separate section of the South China Sea some 200 kilometers west of the island of Luzon and well within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, was taken over by China in 2012 following a 10-week standoff with the Philippines. Since then, the China Coast Guard has had a practically permanent presence at the shoal.
This incident represents the most recent in a series of efforts by China to surveil and impede the Philippines’ resupply missions to their personnel stationed on features within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. China asserts its sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, a crucial waterway through which over $3 trillion in trade flows annually.