MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine navy chief stated Monday he was with Filipino forces aboard a provide boat when it was blasted with a water cannon and surrounded and bumped by Chinese language coast guard ships over the weekend within the disputed South China Sea.

Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. advised The Related Press in a phone interview that China was escalating its aggression within the contested waters however stated it could not deter Filipino forces from defending the Philippines’ territorial pursuits within the busy waterway.

Greater than 100 Chinese language authorities and suspected militia ships have swarmed the excessive seas across the contested Scarborough Shoal, the place a long-marooned Philippine navy ship that Brawner visited has stood for many years. He stated the Chinese language flotilla was a lot larger than in earlier months.

“It is pure aggression,” Brawner stated of China’s high-seas maneuvers. “I witnessed what number of instances the large Chinese language coast guard and militia ships lower our path. They water-cannoned us, then bumped us. It’s angering.”

“This actually wants a diplomatic answer on the larger degree,” he stated, however added that the Philippine “armed forces will proceed our mission as a result of it’s lawful and it’s our obligation to deliver provides to our troops within the frontlines, and it’s our obligation to guard our fishermen.”

Brawner, the U.S.-educated chief of the 150,000-member Armed Forces of the Philippines, joined navy personnel in a wooden-hulled provide boat, the Unnaiza Mae 1, which introduced Christmas presents, meals and different provides to a small contingent of Filipino marines and navy personnel stationed aboard the BRP Sierra Madre on the Second Thomas Shoal.

Though now crumbling with rust and holes, the marginally itemizing BRP Sierra Madre stays an actively commissioned Philippine navy ship, which means any assault on it could be thought-about an act of warfare. It has change into a fragile image of the territorial claims of the Philippines within the strategic waterway, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

After the Philippines intentionally grounded the Sierra Madre on the shallows of Scarborough Shoal in 1999, China surrounded the atoll with its coast guard, navy and suspected militia ships to isolate the Filipino forces there. The yearslong territorial standoff has flared commonly and change into one of the vital delicate flashpoints within the South China Sea and a fault line within the U.S.-China regional rivalry.

The United States has repeatedly warned it’s obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces, ships or plane come underneath an armed assault, together with within the South China Sea. China has warned the U.S. to not meddle in what it says is a purely Asian dispute.

Brawner stated he conveyed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Christmas greetings to the Filipino forces aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, the place he shared a standard rice lunch eaten by hand with them.

Over the weekend, Philippine officers stated the Chinese language coast guard and suspected militia ships focused Philippine vessels two days in a row with water cannon blasts and rammed one among them, inflicting injury and endangering Filipino crew members off the Second Thomas Shoal and individually within the Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

The Philippines, together with the U.S. and Japan, condemned the maneuvers by the Chinese language coast guard and accompanying ships.

“We condemn, as soon as once more, China’s newest unprovoked acts of coercion and harmful maneuvers towards a reliable and routine Philippine rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal that has put the lives of our individuals in danger,” a Philippine authorities activity pressure that offers with the territorial disputes stated in an announcement, utilizing the Filipino identify for the shoal.

Philippine officers stated the Chinese language coast guard’s high-pressure water cannon blasts disabled and severely broken the engines of the Philippine provide boat M/L Kalayaan, which needed to be towed again to the western Philippine province of Palawan.

One among two Philippine coast guard escort ships, the BRP Cabra, sustained injury to its mast because of the water cannon blast.

The Chinese language coast guard stated it had “applied controls in accordance with legal guidelines and rules.” The assertion gave no particulars in regards to the measures taken however stated the Philippines motion “severely infringed on China’s sovereignty.”

It additionally stated a Philippine vessel ignored warnings and, in violation of worldwide navigation rules, made a pointy flip in an “unprofessional and harmful method” and deliberately collided with a Chinese language coast guard ship, inflicting “scratching.”

“The duty lies solely with the Philippine facet,” the Chinese language coast guard stated.

U.S. Ambassador to Manila MaryKay L. Carlson wrote on X, previously referred to as Twitter: “The U.S. stands with the Philippines and companions in vehemently condemning the PRC’s repeated unlawful and harmful actions towards vessels.”

China has rejected all worldwide condemnation and makes an attempt at authorized intervention, together with a 2016 ruling by a U.N.-backed arbitration tribunal that invalidated China’s claims, leaving them with none authorized foundation. China says it has a authorized proper to “defend its sovereignty” consistent with its expansive declare to the South China Sea.

On Saturday, the Chinese language coast guard and accompanying ships additionally skilled water cannons at three Philippine fisheries vessels to forestall them from approaching Scarborough Shoal within the disputed waters off the northwestern Philippines.

That precipitated “important injury” to the communication and navigation gear of one of many three Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Assets vessels, Philippine officers stated. They added that suspected militia vessels accompanying Chinese language coast guard ships used a long-range acoustic machine that might impair listening to, inflicting “extreme non permanent discomfort and incapacitation to some Filipino crew.”

In different excessive seas clashes this 12 months, Philippines officers stated that Chinese coast guard ships used a military-grade laser that precipitated Filipino crew members non permanent blindness and engaged in harmful blocking and shadowing maneuvers that precipitated minor collisions.

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