Philippines says a coast guard ship and supply boat were rammed by Chinese vessels at disputed shoal

Filipino sailors watch on Sunday as a Chinese coast guard ship with bow number 5203 bumps their supply boat as they approach Second Thomas Shoal, locally called Ayungin Shoal, at the disputed South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines/via AP)

MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese coast guard ship and an accompanying vessel rammed a Philippine coast guard ship and a military-run supply boat Sunday off a contested shoal, Philippine officials said, in an encounter that heightened fears of an armed conflict in the disputed South China Sea.

A top Philippine security official told The Associated Press there were no injuries among the Filipino crew members and an assessment of the damage to both vessels was underway.

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The official said that the two incidents near Second Thomas Shoal, where China has repeatedly tried to isolate a Philippine marine outpost, could have been worse if the vessels were not able to maneuver rapidly away from the Chinese ships. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to a lack of authority to publicly discuss the matter.

China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea, including over islands closer to Philippine shore, have raised tensions and brought in the United States, a longtime treaty ally of the Philippines, into the fray.

The U.S. ambassador to Manila, MaryKay Carlson, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that “the United States condemns the PRC’s latest disruption of a legal Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin shoal, putting the lives of Filipino service members at risk.”

She used the initials for China’s formal name, the People’s Republic of China, and the name the Philippines uses for Second Thomas Shoal. She added that Washington was standing with its allies to help protect Philippine sovereignty and to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The Chinese coast guard said the Philippine vessels “trespassed” into what it said were Chinese waters “without authorization” despite repeated radio warnings, prompting its ships to stop them. It blamed the Philippine vessels for causing the collisions.

“The Philippine side’s behavior seriously violates the international rules on avoiding collisions at sea and threatens the navigation safety of our vessels,” the Chinese coast guard said in a statement.

The Chinese authorities said that they were stopping Philippines ships that carried “illegal construction” materials.

A Philippine government task force dealing with the South China Sea said the collisions occurred as two Philippine supply boats escorted by two Philippine coast guard ships were heading to deliver food and other supplies to the military outpost that has been under a Chinese blockade.

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