A rusty ship from World War II inflames tensions between China and the Philippines
A World War II ship anchored in the South China Sea sparked naval skirmishes between the Philippines and China, and tensions with Washington, which declared its solidarity with its ally Manila in the face of Beijing’s “dangerous behavior”.
In the aftermath of the crisis of that “rusty” ship stuck at sea, Manila accused Beijing of using water cannons and obstructing the task of resupplying its soldiers who operate the ship, which bears the name “BRB Sierra Madre”.
The Philippine government responded by summoning the Chinese ambassador, Huang Shilian, to protest what it described as a “Chinese attack on Philippine ships” near the disputed island of Ionjin Shoal, according to the Philippine newspaper “Manila Times”.
The countries bordering the South China Sea, through which goods worth about $3 trillion pass each year, are: Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, dispute over a group of 8 uninhabited rocky islands, the largest of which has an area of 4 square kilometers.
The roots of the crisis go back to 1999 when the Philippines placed an old ship in the Ionjin Shoal as a permanent government facility in response to China’s takeover of the Mischief Reef four years earlier.
In the latest tension, on Sunday, the Chinese coast guard intercepted a Philippine military supply boat and targeted it with water cannons.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday that his country would not tow the ship.
According to a statement, Marcos confirmed that: “Any agreement that the Philippines withdraw its ship from its territory, as China says, has been rescinded, as of the time of the statement.”
The Philippines has lodged 445 diplomatic representations against China since 2020, according to Philippine Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ma Teresita Daza.
In 2023, the Philippine Foreign Ministry organized 35 diplomatic protests, including a “note verbale” that was delivered during the last summons of the Chinese ambassador.
The Philippines says the Chinese actions violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Court of Arbitration ruling on the South China Sea and violate its sovereign rights and jurisdiction.