Chinese coast guard, Philippines navy clash in disputed sea

The Philip­pines accused Chinese coast guard sailors of brandishing knives, an axe and other weapons in a clash with its naval vessels near a strategic reef in the South China Sea. The clash took place on Monday as Philippine forces attempted to resupply marines stationed on a derelict warship that was deliberately grounded atop the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert Manila’s territorial claims. It was the latest in a series of escalating confrontations between Chinese and Philippine ships in recent months as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to the disputed area. Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner said the “outnumbered” Filipino crew had been unarmed and had fought with their “bare hands”. A Filipino sailor lost a thumb in the clash, in which the Chinese coast guard confiscated or destroyed Philippine equipment including guns, the Philippine military alleged. Fresh footage released by the Philippine military late on Wednesday showed small boats crewed by Chinese sailors shouting, waving knives and using sticks to hit an inflatable boat as a siren blares. A voice speaking Tagalog can be heard in one clip saying someone had “lost a finger”. Manila’s footage of the clash stands in stark contrast to photos released by Beijing’s state media on Wednesday, which did not show Chinese forces wielding weapons. Asked about the videos on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said Manila’s comments on the clash were “totally bogus accusations that confuse black with white”.