The two navies engaged each other after the Philippine vessel—a former Coast Guard cutter provided by the U.S. Navy—attempted to arrest the crew of several Chinese fishing boats who were anchored at Scarborough Shoal, off the Philippines’ northwest coast but which is also claimed by China. The Philippine government said Chinese surveillance vessels intervened to prevent any arrests, leading to the standoff, and that Filipino sailors who inspected the Chinese vessels on Tuesday found illegally collected corals and live sharks in one of the fishing boats.
China is locked in a series of overlapping territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, who claim either all or part of the South China Sea as their sovereign territory. The dispute has flared in recent months as the region’s potential energy reserves begin to draw growing attention.
Over the past year, Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese navy craft of harassing oil-exploration vessels operating in their United Nations-defined maritime economic zones. Beijing has denied that, but has warned Vietnam and the Philippines from prospecting in the area without its permission.
“This is part of larger pattern. These new standoffs are coming to light only because we are better positioned to stand up to China now,” said a Philippine military official who asked not to be identified.
Full article: Philippine Warship in Standoff With China Vessels (Wall Street Journal)