MANILA (Reuters) -The Philippine military has demanded China stop “dangerous and offensive” actions in the South China Sea, after a Chinese navy ship shadowed and attempted to cut off a Philippine navy vessel conducting a resupply mission late last week.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessel came as close as 350 yards (metres) as it tried to cross in front of the Philippine ship near Thitu island, Manila’s biggest and most strategically important outpost in the South China Sea, according to Philippines armed forces chief Romeo Brawner.
“These dangerous and offensive manoeuvres by China’s PLAN not only risk collision but also directly endanger the lives of maritime personnel from both sides,” Brawner said in a statement on Sunday.
China on Monday claimed sovereignty and defended its presence near Thitu, which is calls as Zhongye Island.
“The Philippine side’s illegal occupation of Zhongye Island has seriously violated China’s sovereignty,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular press conference on Monday. “It is reasonable and lawful for Chinese warships to patrol the waters near Zhongye Island.”
It was the latest in a series of attempts by China to monitor and block Philippine resupply missions to personnel in Manila-occupied features in the South China Sea.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which more than $3 trillion of trade passes each year.
Ties between Manila and Beijing have soured since Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos pursued closer ties with Washington, in sharp contrast to the pro-China stance of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who sought to court billions of dollars of investment from Beijing.
Marcos, however, has maintained pursuing economic relations with China is important, and his government is sending a representative to China’s third Belt and Road Forum this week.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales, Additional Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Gerry Doyle)