China’s use of a laser aimed at a Philippine Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea drew a sharp response from the United States on Monday. The action, which the Philippines said temporarily blinded the crew, was “provocative and unsafe,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The Philippines said earlier that on Feb. 6, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel aimed a “military-grade” green laser light twice at its Coast Guard ship and made “dangerous maneuvers” by coming within 150 yards of the rear right of the boat.
The incident came days after the Philippines agreed to give U.S. military forces access to four new military facilities. The tense encounter took place in disputed waters, called the Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines and the Ren’ai Reef in China.
A video shared by Philippine news media shows a ship beaming green lasers late in the evening.
WATCH: In an act of “blatant disregard” of the Philippine sovereign rights, the Philippine Coast Guard shares video of Chinese Coast Guard vessel pointing “military grade” laser towards PCG vessel, causing “temporary blindness” of its crew. | @JEMendozaINQ pic.twitter.com/u2GdTd9rwg
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) February 13, 2023
The Philippine Coast Guard, in a statement Monday, said the “deliberate blocking” of its ship was a “blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea.”
Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a news briefing Monday that the vessel “intruded into the waters off the Ren’ai Reef without Chinese permission” and that the Philippines should “avoid taking any actions that may exacerbate disputes and complicate the situation.”
China and the Philippines are communicating through diplomatic channels on the issue, he added.
The incident reinforces the need to strengthen cooperation to address China’s maritime ambition in East Asia, said Rommel Jude Ong, a maritime security expert and retired vice commander of the Philippine Navy. “Appeasement or engagement does not work. China respects only the projection of power,” he said.
In 2016, an international arbitration court ruled that China’s claims over a vast swaths of the South China Sea did not have a historical or legal basis in a case brought by the Philippines. China rejected the decision, and there have been several naval standoffs and skirmishes in the region over the years.
In January, Chinese vessels drove away Philippine fishermen in the vicinity of the shoal. In December, the Philippines’ defense chief said the presence of dozens of Chinese ships in the disputed waters was “unacceptable.”
China, most recently embroiled in a controversy with the United States over what American officials said was a spy balloon, had been known to use laser beams previously. Last year, Australia accused a Chinese naval ship of shining a laser on one of its Air Force jets, a charge denied by China. » …