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Chinese ships block Philippine coast guard in latest South China Sea standoff

China coastguard
China coastguard Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Philip Andrew Churm with AP
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Two Philippine boats breached a Chinese coast guard blockade in a dangerous confrontation in the disputed South China Sea

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Pictures, recorded by the Philippine coast guard, show the latest sovereignty standoff between Beijing and Manila in the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese coastguard ships blocked the passage to Philippine coast guard vessels for hours on Tuesday near the Second Thomas Shoal; an area claimed by the Philippines, where they maintain a military ship and had sent supplies.

The dangerous encounter is the latest flare-up from the long-seething territorial disputes in the busy sea that involve China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

It is regarded as an Asian flashpoint and has become a delicate fault line in the US-China rivalry.

In Tuesday's incident, a Chinese coast guard ship came as close as 46 metres to the Philippine coast guard ship, which manoeuvred quickly to avoid a collision.

All the Philippine vessels sailed away without further incident after the supplies and a fresh crew of Filipino sailors were delivered to the military outpost on a long-marooned Philippine navy ship at the shoal.

China, asserting its claim over the region, then allowed the passage of two vessels carrying supplies, citing humanitarian reasons.

Beijing is embroiled in numerous sovereignty disputes in these waters.

Despite setbacks in international courts, it is pursuing an increasingly assertive policy, causing concern among other regional nations and the United States, which closely monitors China's activities in waters through which one-third of the world's maritime traffic flows.

After a Chinese coast guard ship used a water cannon against a Philippine supply boat on 5 August, Washington renewed a warning that it is obligated to defend its longstanding treaty ally if Filipino forces, aircraft and vessels come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.

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