By Chris King •
Published: 14 Feb 2023 • 20:59
Image of the alleged laset shone at a Philippines vessel by China.
Credit: Phillippines Coast Guard
According to a statement released by the Philippines Coast Guard on Monday, February 13, a Chinese coast guard ship fired a military-grade laser at one of its coast guard vessels. It temporarily blinded some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea.
Officials in Manila called it a ‘blatant’ violation of their sovereign rights. The Chinese vessel was also accused of manoeuvring dangerously at a distance of about 137 metres.
This action was carried out to prevent the Philippine patrol vessel BRP Malapascua from approaching Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef that has been occupied by Philippine forces they said.
The BRP Malapascua was supporting a navy rotation and resupply mission in Ayungin in the Second Thomas region of the West Philippine Sea. This is a name given by Manila to the disputed territories it has long claimed in the South China Sea.
Captain Jay Tarriela, an adviser to the maritime security commander, told The Inquirer that the temporary crew blindness caused by the Chinese weapon lasted between 10 and 15 seconds. “But we don’t know if it will cause long-term medical effects”, he added.
Last year, the Australian government announced that a Chinese warship aimed a laser at a Royal Australian Air Force plane some 105km off Australia’s northern coast, a claim denied by China.
The Philippines has lodged nearly 200 diplomatic protests against China’s aggressive actions in the disputed waters in 2022 alone. China claims the South China Sea virtually in its entirety, which pits it against other countries that also claim these territories.
Despite friendly overtures to Beijing by former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr – who met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in January – tensions persisted, leading to a closer military alliance between the Philippines and the US.
Speaking with the Associated Press, Philippine coast guard spokesman, Commodore Armand Balilo, explained that although the Chinese coast guard had tried to block Philippine coast guard vessels in these disputed waters on other occasions, this was the first time it had used lasers and caused physical suffering among navy personnel.
“The Chinese ship shone the green laser light twice towards the BRP Malapascua, causing temporary blindness to its crew on the bridge,” the Philippine statement said.
As a result, the vessel was forced to move away from the area. It was escorting a supply ship delivering food and sailors to the BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine navy sentry ship which has been isolated on Second Thomas Shoal since 1999, the coast guard said.
“The deliberate blockade of Philippine government vessels to deliver food and supplies to our military personnel aboard the BRP Sierra Madre is a blatant disregard and a clear violation of the Philippines’ sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea”, stressed the coast guard.
Philippine ships escorting a supply vessel were previously prevented from approaching Second Thomas Shoal by the Chinese coast guard in August, the coast guard recalled.
Apart from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims in this resource-rich South China Sea waterway, where most of the world’s trade and oil transits, as reported by larazon.es.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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