Philippines Military Releases Video Of Incident At Sea

Chinese forces boarded and overwhelmed U.S.-allied vessels on Monday in one of the most dramatic escalations in recent times in the South China Sea, as seen in chaotic footage of the incident released on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Chinese Coast Guard on Monday confronted Philippine navy boats that were attempting to deliver supplies to an outpost in the South China Sea, according to The Associated Press. Footage recently released by the Philippine military depicts Chinese Coast Guard vessels ramming one of the boats and boarding the second boat, destroying and seizing equipment, injuring crew members, and wielding knives, spears, and axes.

“We were outnumbered and their weapons were unexpected, but our personnel fought with everything that they had,” General Romeo Brawner Jr., chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said in a statement on Thursday. “Only pirates do this. Only pirates board, steal, and destroy ships, equipment, and belongings.”

The incident occurred at the Second Thomas Shoal—a flashpoint for conflict between the Philippines and China—in the South China Sea, per the AP. The Chinese Coast Guard approached two Filipino boats attempting to restock goods at a military outpost at the reef.

China believes that the South China Sea is solely its own territory, even though that claim is disputed by a bulk of the international community, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Though the Philippines and China have clashed in the sea before, Monday’s events mark a severe intensification in hostilities between the two nations over the territorial dispute—never before have Chinese forces wielded bladed weapons against Filipino forces, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Beijing on Thursday disputed claims that it initiated the conflict, saying that the Philippine military had “illegally intruded” waters of the South China Sea, rammed Chinese vessels, and lied about restocking goods at the Second Thomas Shoal outpost.

“The Philippine side has been calling white black and falsely accusing China,” China Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lin Jian told reporters on Thursday. “China will firmly safeguard its lawful rights and interests. We urge the Philippines to stop infringement and provocation at sea at once. Otherwise, the consequences shall be borne by the Philippines.”

The U.S. maintains a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines to defend the nation if it is attacked by China or other hostile forces. The Pentagon said Monday that China’s behavior was not out of character—given its increasing hostilities against the Philippines—and would continue to monitor the situation in the region.

“We already have suffered injury, but thank God, we have not yet gotten to the point where any of our participants, civilian or otherwise, have been killed,” Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., the president of the Philippines, said at a security conference in late May. “But once we get to that point, that is certainly when we would have crossed the Rubicon and certainly crossed the Rubicon.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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