A Philippine Coast Guard vessel was targeted by a “military-style laser” emitted from a Chinese fleet boat in the disputed South China Sea, temporarily blinding several crew members, Manila charged on Monday.

The incident occurred on February 6 about 20 kilometers from Second Thomas Atoll, in the Spratly archipelago, where Filipino soldiers are stationed, Manila said in a statement.

A Chinese coast guard boat aimed a “military-style” green laser twice at the Philippine vessel, “resulting in the temporary blinding of its crew (present) on deck,” the same source said.

The Chinese vessel also carried out “dangerous maneuvers”, approaching about 140 meters from the boat.

The Philippine patrol boat was on a “rotation and resupply mission” of soldiers occupying an abandoned navy ship that had been stranded on a sandbar to assert territorial claims in Manila.

“The deliberate blocking of Philippine government boats (which) deliver food and supplies to our soldiers (…) is a flagrant disregard and a clear violation of the sovereign rights ‘of Manila’ in this part of the Western Sea of ​​the Philippines,” the Philippine Coast Guard said, referring to the waters west of the country.

Despite the incident, the mission was successfully completed, said Armando Balilo, spokesman for the Philippine Coast Guard.

Private boats are usually employed for the transport of food and equipment and escorted by the coast guard.

Medel Aguilar, spokesman for the Philippine military, called on Beijing to exercise restraint “not to commit a provocative act that would put lives in danger”.

Chinese diplomatic spokesman Wang Wenbin said the Philippine vessel had “entered” China’s sovereign waters without permission.

According to him, the members of the Chinese coast guard acted in a “professional and measured” manner.

Ships from China’s maritime and coastguard units also blocked the way in August of Philippine government boats, preventing them from reaching soldiers stationed at the atoll, the Manila Coastguard reported.

This is the latest maritime incident between Beijing and Manila, in disagreement over this sea, a strategic space with rich energy and fishery resources.

Beijing claims almost all of it, but the Philippines as well as Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims. China has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

Washington and Manila agreed in early February to again carry out joint patrols in the South China Sea. The two allies have unveiled an agreement allowing US soldiers access to four additional bases in the Philippines, in a bid to counter Beijing’s growing military power in the region.

In December 2022, Manila announced the upcoming establishment of direct communication between the Chinese and Philippine foreign ministries to avoid “any miscalculation and miscommunication” in the South China Sea. It is not known if this device was used in connection with the February 6 incident.

02/13/2023 11:54:00 – Manila (AFP) – © 2023 AFP