China and the Philippines have been locked in a dispute over the Ren’ai Jiao atoll in the South China Sea. The recent incident saw a Chinese military vessel using water cannons against two Philippine supply ships, which Manila described as “aggressive maneuvers.” The Philippines claims Ren’ai Jiao as part of its sovereign territory, while China asserts its ownership.
In response to the incident, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that Ren’ai Jiao, known as the Second Thomas Shoal to Manila, is part of China’s territory. It also highlighted that a Philippine military vessel has been illegally grounded on the island for decades, despite promises to remove it. The ministry accused the Philippines of seeking to permanently occupy the atoll by repairing and reinforcing the ship.
The Philippines was awarded rights to the atoll in 2016 through the South China Sea Arbitration, a process governed by international maritime law. However, China has refused to recognize the ruling, considering it illegal and null. In its statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated its rejection of the award and stated that it would not accept any claim or action based on it.
The Philippine military condemned the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard vessel, accusing it of endangering the people on board the supply ships through its excessive and offensive use of water cannons. It urged China to act responsibly and prevent miscalculations and accidents that could harm lives.
The United States, a close ally of the Philippines, responded to the incident by pledging to defend its ally from any armed attack. It criticized the Chinese vessel for interfering with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation. Japan and Australia also issued statements condemning China’s actions, with Australia describing them as dangerous and destabilizing.
China has consistently criticized US and allied military presence in the South China Sea, warning the US to stay out of territorial disputes in the region. Despite these warnings, the US has continued to denounce China’s actions in contested areas and regularly conducts freedom of navigation missions in the region.
The dispute between China and the Philippines over the Ren’ai Jiao atoll highlights the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea. Both countries assert their claims to the island and are unwilling to back down. The involvement of the United States and its allies further complicates the situation, potentially escalating it into a larger conflict. It remains to be seen how these tensions will be resolved and whether diplomatic negotiations can bring about a peaceful resolution.