China is ‘deliberately stirring up trouble’ in the South China Sea, Philippines says

A dramatic stand-off with Beijing in the South China Sea this week was the most serious incident yet for the Philippines, its top security officials said on Wednesday, vowing not to back down in asserting the country’s sovereign rights.

The Philippines has been incensed by what it calls repeated aggressive conduct by China’s coastguard, accusing its ships of using water cannon and blocking and harassing a Philippine resupply mission on Tuesday for troops stationed at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines’ South China Sea task force said a top admiral was on board a vessel that was water cannoned by China’s coastguard, shattering its windshield and wounding four navy personnel. The admiral was unharmed.

“This is the most serious incident yet,” task force spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said, accusing China of “deliberately stirring up trouble” and “maliciously inciting hype”.

China accused the Philippines of intruding on its territory, claiming indisputable sovereignty over the reef, located 1,300 km (808 miles) off its mainland. China claims most of the South China Sea as its own, despite an international arbitration panel concluding that position had no basis under international law.

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro on Wednesday said China’s claims were baseless and its actions this week were “patently illegal and downright uncivilized”.

“This claim is, simply put, one that no right-thinking state in the world agrees with and which many outright condemn,” Teodoro said in a statement.