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Tension in the Pacific: Chinese and Philippine vessels collide near the Ayungin Shoal

The South China Sea is the scene of a conflict between China and the Phillippines as part of Beijing's expansion strategy.

Un miembro de la Guardia Costera de Taiwán vigila los movimientos de un buque de guerra chino.

Un miembro de la Guardia Costera de Taiwán vigila los movimientos de un buque de guerra chin

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Conflicts between China and the Philippines continue in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Both nations have neighboring overlapping claims in the South China Sea, particularly in areas that Beijing claims as its own, as part of its maritime expansion strategy in the Pacific. In the latest incident, two ships flying the flags of China and the Philippines collided amidst these ongoing tensions.

According to the Chinese coast guard to the AP, a Philippine supply ship entered Chinese waters near the Ayungin Shoal, a reef mostly submerged and administered by the Phillippines but claimed by both China and Taiwan.

According to authorities in Beijing, the Philippine vessel "ignored China's repeated solemn warnings... and came dangerously close to a Chinese vessel in normal navigation in an unprofessional manner, causing a collision."

The Philippine government responded to China's account, calling it "misleading and deceptive." The government added that it "will not discuss operational details on the legal humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at the Ayungin Shoal, which is well within our exclusive economic zone." In the Ayungin area, the Philippine navy has transported food, medicine and other supplies to a long-stranded warship that has served as Manila's territorial outpost.

United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Marykay Carlson, condemned the incident and criticized China's actions on X.

Philippines' exclusive economic zone

The Ayungin Shoal is located about 105 nautical miles west of the Philippine island of Palawan and 600 nautical miles west of the Chinese island of Hainan. While these waters fall within the Phillippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Chinese authorities dispute this claim. The Chinese coast guard stated, "The Philippines is fully responsible for this."

The EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles from the nation's coast, beyond its territorial waters, and is recognized by a relevant United Nations body. If EEZs overlap, a median line is drawn to establish boundaries. Regarding the Ayungin Shoal, a 2016 Hague court ruling invalidated China's claims to the area. However, Beijing rejected this ruling and the process behind it.

Due to China's claims, these incidents have become common. Last March, another Philippine ship was harassed by a Chinese coast guard. The Chinese vessel approached the Philippine ship and used high-powered hoses against it. While these actions are not overtly warlike or armed, they are aggressive maneuvers often referred to as "gray zone" tactics in geostrategy. These tactics allow China to exert direct pressure and erode the position of another nation without provoking a formal declaration of war.