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Beijing inches closer to war with 'monster' ship as tensions erupt in South China Sea

Tensions remain high in the South China Sea after China anchored the world’s largest coastguard ship in Filippino waters.

The 165-metre (541ft) vessel arrived in Manilla’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) earlier this month, in an apparent bid by China to intimidate the smaller nation.

Large swathes of the South China Sea are claimed by China – with many areas disputed by other nations in the area including the Philippines and Vietnam.

China has built a number of small artificial shoals in areas of the sea to support its claim to the area.

The Philippines and China have had a series of low-level confrontations in the disputed waters in recent years – leading to concerns the situation could develop into a wider conflict that could draw in the USA, an ally of the Philippines.

On June 17 the two sides clashed over the disputed Second Thomas Shoal – some Filipino navy personnel injured and two military boats damaged.

The shoal off the northwestern Philippines has emerged as the most dangerous flashpoint in the region.

Chinese naval and civilian vessels have previously surrounded the Philippine marines aboard a grounded ship, the Sierra Madre, and tried to prevent their resupply and demanded the Philippines pull out.

The Asian neighbours previously agreed to hold what they call the Bicameral Consultative Mechanism meetings, first held in 2017, to peacefully manage their disputes.

However confrontations have persisted especially under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who, unlike his predecessor, has nurtured closer military and defence ties with the US as a counterweight to China.

Under Mr Marcos, who took office in 2022, the Philippines launched a campaign to expose aggressive Chinese actions by making public videos and photographs and allowing journalists to join coast guard patrol ships, which have figured in dangerous faceoffs with Beijing’s forces.

During high level talks last week, Philippine Foreign undersecretary Theresa Lazaro told her Chinese counterpart, vice foreign minister Chen Xiaodong, ‘that the Philippines will be relentless in protecting its interests and upholding its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction’.


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