China Slams Philippines’ Continued Use of Supply Convoys

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The Chinese government is displeased with the Philippines’ insistence on conducting patrol and resupply operations within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, People’s Liberation Army spokesman Wu Qian said Thursday. It is also unhappy with the French Navy’s plans to hold a joint drill with Philippines and India in the same region. 

The Philippine Coast Guard’s resupply runs to Second Thomas Shoal typically involve tense standoffs with Chinese paramilitary forces and the China Coast Guard. Beijing has repeatedly ordered Manila to withdraw from a garrison on the reef, but Philippine forces have held out thanks to the risky convoy operations. 

In previous confrontations, the larger and more numerous Chinese vessels have used aggressive maneuvering, water cannons, acoustic devices (LRAD) and laser target illuminators to deter Philippine supply boats. Near-collisions and light contact have occurred. 

China claims ownership of the Spratly Islands and surrounding waters, including areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, like Second Thomas Shoal. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague dismissed Chinese assertions of sovereignty over Philippine waters, but China has ignored the ruling. The PLA has accused Manila of “provoking” confrontation with China by operating Philippine convoys within the Philippine EEZ. 

Asked about the recent confrontations at a press conference Thursday, PLA Senior Colonel Wu Qian blamed Manila for Chinese paramilitary operations in Philippine waters. 

“The Philippines insisted on sending a ship to intrude into the waters adjacent to China’s Ren’ai Jiao [Second Thomas Shoal], and also rammed the Chinese coast guard ship in a provocative manner, causing a collision, which is very dangerous and unprofessional,” said Qian. “The China Coast Guard has taken necessary measures to regulate it in accordance with the law, which is completely reasonable and lawful.”

He claimed that reports that the China Coast Guard had used LRAD and laser systems were “completely out of nowhere,” and that the convoys – which have recently begun carrying members of the press – were all for show. 

“In my opinion, what kind of humanitarian transportation [convoy] is this, this is completely ‘touching porcelain’, it is a show,” he said. (“Touching porcelain” is a Chinese idiom referring to a common street-level scam: a con artist carries a porcelain vase into traffic and pretends to get hit by a car, dropping the vase and then extorting the driver for cash “compensation.”)

Qian also framed the interactions in the Philippine EEZ as a matter for Manila and Beijing to resolve on their own, without any aid from the Philippines’ allies. Multiple nations have recently joined or announced plans to join Philippine forces for naval patrols, including most recently France and India. 

“The China-Philippines maritime dispute is an issue between the two countries, and no third party has any right to interfere,” Qian said. 

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