Chinese Vessel, Philippine Supply Ship Collide in Disputed South China Sea

A Philippine vessel in the South China Sea. AP file photo
A Philippine vessel in the South China Sea. AP file photo
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Chinese Vessel, Philippine Supply Ship Collide in Disputed South China Sea

A Philippine vessel in the South China Sea. AP file photo
A Philippine vessel in the South China Sea. AP file photo

A Chinese vessel and a Philippine supply ship collided near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Monday, China’s coast guard said, in the latest flare-up of escalating territorial disputes that have sparked alarm.
The coast guard said a Philippine supply ship entered waters near the Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands that’s part of territory claimed by several nations. The Philippine military called the Chinese coast guard’s report “deceptive and misleading,” The Associated Press reported.
The Chinese coast guard said in a statement on the social media platform WeChat the Philippine supply ship “ignored China’s repeated solemn warnings ... and dangerously approached a Chinese vessel in normal navigation in an unprofessional manner, resulting in a collision.”
“The Philippines is entirely responsible for this,” it added.
In Manila, the Philippine military said it would “not discuss operational details on the legal humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal, which is well within our exclusive economic zone.” It used the Philippine name for the shoal, where Filipino navy personnel have transported food, medicine and other supplies to a long-grounded warship that has served as Manila’s territorial outpost.
“We will not dignify the deceptive and misleading claims of the China coast guard,” military spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said. “The main issue remains to be the illegal presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which infringes on our sovereignty and sovereign rights.”
"The continued aggressive actions of the CCG are escalating tensions in the region,” Trinidad said.
The Philippines says the shoal, which lies less than 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from its coast, falls within its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone and often cites a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea based on historical grounds.
Several incidents have happened in recent months near the shoal, where the Philippines maintains an outpost aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, which had been encrusted with rust since it was deliberately grounded in 1999 but remains an actively commissioned military vessel, meaning an attack on it could be considered by the Philippines as an act of war.
China has increasingly become assertive in pressing its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, which has led to a rising number of direct conflicts with other countries in the region, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam.
A new law by China, which took effect Saturday, authorizes its coast guard to seize foreign ships “that illegally enter China’s territorial waters” and to detain foreign crews for up to 60 days. The law renewed a reference to 2021 legislation that says China’s coast guard can fire upon foreign ships if necessary.
At least three coastal governments with claims to the waters — the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan — have said they would not recognize the law.
The territorial disputes have strained relations and sparked fears the conflict could bring China and the United States, a longtime treaty ally of the Philippines, into a military confrontation. Washington lays no territorial claims to the busy seaway, a key global trade route, but has warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack in the South China Sea.
Aside from China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are also involved in the long-seething territorial disputes, which are regarded as a flashpoint in Asia and a delicate fault line in the longstanding US-China rivalry in the region.
Indonesia has also confronted Chinese coast guard and fishing fleets in the past in the gas-rich waters off the Natuna islands in the fringes of the South China Sea where it blew Chinese fishing boats it had taken under custody. Its navy also fired warning shots at Chinese vessels straying into what Jakarta regards as its exclusive economic zone.



Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Joe Biden holed up at his beach house Thursday, battling both a bout of COVID and calls by senior allies for him to abandon his 2024 reelection bid.

While rival Donald Trump prepared for his star turn at the Republican National Convention, the 81-year-old US president found himself in both personal and political isolation.

The top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both reportedly met with Biden in recent days to warn that his candidacy threatens his party's prospects in November's election.

Influential former House speaker Nancy Pelosi added to his woes by privately telling Biden he cannot win and could harm Democrats' chances of recapturing the lower chamber, CNN reported.

Several party figures were meanwhile quoted anonymously by the Axios news outlet as saying that they believed the pressure would persuade Biden to drop out as soon as this weekend.

Biden has insisted he is not backing down, adamant that he is the candidate who beat Trump before and will do it again this year. Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”

"He's staying in the race," Fulks told a press conference on the sidelines of the Republican convention in Milwaukee.

"Our campaign is not working through any scenarios where President Biden is not the top of the ticket -- he is and will be the Democratic nominee."

California Senator Alex Padilla said Biden was "not skipping a beat."

"I know having spoken to him personally he's committed to the campaign," he added.

Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could wipe out the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private, and now, the president’s own time off the campaign trail after testing positive for COVID-19, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was "doing well."

His COVID diagnosis however came at the worst possible time for his campaign, forcing him to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and isolate at his holiday home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

The split-screen with Trump could not have been more stark, with Trump set to formally accept the Republican nomination in Milwaukee.

US networks showed images of frail looking Biden gingerly descending the steps of Air Force One in Delaware, in a week when Trump is lauded by supporters each night at a packed party convention.

Former president Trump, who at 78 is just three years younger than Biden, is riding a wave of support from his party after surviving an assassination attempt on Saturday that left him with a bandaged ear.

The United States could now be approaching the climax of an extraordinary three weeks in politics, which started when Biden gave a disastrous performance during a televised debate with Trump.

Biden blamed jet lag and a cold, but the fact that America's commander-in-chief has now fallen ill for a second time just as fears grow about his fitness for the job has merely intensified the panic in Democratic ranks.