In a recent incident in the South China Sea, a Chinese coast guard attack Filipino coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser. The laser temporarily blinded some of the Philippine crew, an action that has been called a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights. The incident took place on February 6, when the Chinese ship maneuvered dangerously close to the Philippine patrol vessel, the BRP Malapascua, to block it from approaching the Second Thomas Shoal.
The Philippines has been increasingly vocal about China’s aggressive actions in the disputed waters and has filed nearly 200 diplomatic protests against them in 2022 alone. China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, putting it at odds with other countries that have overlapping claims, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.
This particular incident, where the Chinese coast guard used a laser and caused physical harm, is the first of its kind. Philippine coast guard spokesperson, Commodore Armand Balilo, stated that this was the first time the Chinese coast guard has used lasers and caused harm to Filipino personnel.
Aside from the Philippines, the United States has also been monitoring the situation in the South China Sea. Although the US does not have any claims to the disputed waters, it has deployed forces to patrol the area to promote freedom of navigation and overflight. These moves have angered China, which has warned the US to stop interfering in what it considers to be a purely Asian dispute.
Despite the friendly overtures made by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to Beijing, tensions between the Philippines and China have persisted. As a result, the Philippines has drawn closer to the US, forming a military alliance with the country.
In August, the Chinese coast guard also blocked Philippine ships escorting a supply vessel from approaching the Second Thomas Shoal. The Philippines has stated that it will not be deterred by China’s aggression and will continue to protect its sovereignty in the disputed sea.
The recent joint exercises conducted by the US Navy and Marine Corps in the South China Sea have further escalated tensions between the US and China. The exercises took place over the weekend at a time when tensions are already high between the two countries, due to the recent shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon.
The recent Chinese Coast Guard Attack incident involving the Chinese coast guard and the Philippine coast guard vessel has only served to highlight the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea. The Philippines, along with other countries and the US, will likely continue to monitor the situation closely, as the South China Sea remains a resource-rich and busy waterway where a large portion of the world’s commerce and oil transit.