Philippines rejects China's call for removing warship from disputed reef

Philippines rejects China's call for removing warship from disputed reef

China's coast guard fired water cannons at vessels supplying troops stationed in Spratly Islands

By Anadolu staff

The Philippines on Monday dismissed a call by China to remove an "illegally" grounded warship from a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands following an incident over the weekend in which Chinese coastguard vessels fired water cannons at ships supplying troops stationed there.

Manila told Beijing that it will not abandon the disputed shoal in the South China Sea, accusing the Chinese coast guard of making "dangerous maneuvers” as well as targeting one of its ships with a laser.

Jonathan Malaya, a senior Philippine National Security Council (NSC) official, said China's increased presence at the Second Thomas Shoal will not deter the Philippines' resolve to protect its position there.

Manila intentionally grounded the Second World War-era warship in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines' sovereignty claims.

"We will continue to resupply troops in the grounded vessel as long as it takes," Malaya said at a joint news conference with the military, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine Foreign Ministry.

Beijing urged Manila to remove the warship while defending its coastguard’s actions as “professional and restrained."

It also claimed that the Philippine ships “disregarded China’s repeated dissuasion and warnings and attempted to transfer construction materials used for maintaining and repairing the ship, which has been grounded on the shoal illegally."

“The Chinese side urges the Philippines to tow away the grounded warship from the Renai Reef and restore the Renai Reef to its original state,” said a spokesman for China’s coast guard.

Manila earlier in the day summoned China's ambassador to strongly protest the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard.

The Philippines’ longtime ally, the US, backed Manila over the issue.

"The United States reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces — including those of its Coast Guard in the South China Sea – would invoke the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty."

The territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea remain highly contested, despite repeated calls for a negotiated settlement and avoiding breaches of sovereignty.

In 2016, however, China was dealt a blow when the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), an international tribunal based in The Hague, the Netherlands, ruled that its nine-dash line claim has no legal basis under international law.

China "firmly" opposed the US statement, calling it an attack on China’s maritime rights in the South China Sea.

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