Philippines says China used ‘military-grade’ lasers against coast guard ship
Manila, Feb 13 (EFE).- The Philippines Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of using a military grade laser light at one of its vessels in the contested South China Sea.
“A green laser blinded our crew’s vessel for 10 seconds more or less. It is the first time that Chinese vessels have used this method,” Philippine coast guard spokesperson Armand Balilo told EFE on Monday. “We believe this is a military purpose laser.”
The incident occurred on Feb. 6 in the waters of the South China Sea, around the Ayungin Shoal, which the Philippines controls.
It happened less than 200 miles from the western coast of Palawan, southwest of the archipelago and within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
The distance of 200 nautical miles is the limit established by the United Nations to determine the maritime sovereignty of countries, according to a convention which China ratified in 1996.
China said its coast guards responded “professionally and with restraint” after a Philippine coast guard vessel trespassed into Chinese waters in the disputed South China Sea.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China expected the Philippines to solemnly respect territorial sovereignty and rights and maritime interests surrounding the South China Sea and avoid taking any actions that could widen the disputes and complicate the situation.
A Philippine coast guard statement said the Chinese coast guard vessel of used the laser “twice” against the BRP Malapascua vessel and performed “dangerous maneuvers” by approaching within 150 yards (137 meters) of the ship.
The complaint comes a week after the Philippines and the US signed an agreement that guarantees American troops access to four new military bases located in strategic areas of the Philippines.
Experts say that US access to these bases, whose location has not yet been revealed – with an eye on locations in the north and south of the country, including Palawan – would help contain China’s movements around Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing does not rule out invading, and in the South China Sea, a critical world trade route and rich in natural resources.
In a speech aboard a Philippine Coast Guard vessel in Palawan in November, US Vice President Kamala Harris said her country would defend the Philippines against Chinese “intimidation” in disputed waters between Manila and Beijing.
China and the Philippines dispute the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.
China also disputes territories with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei. EFE