The Philippine Coast Guard said Monday a Chinese Coast Guard vessel recently aimed a "military-grade" laser at its ship on a resupply mission in the contested waters of the South China Sea, temporarily blinding some of its crew.
The Philippine Coast Guard also alleged that the Chinese ship "made dangerous maneuvers" in the incident on Feb. 6, sailing about 140 meters from one of their boats near the Manila-controlled Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly Islands chain.
The Chinese ship's directing of the green laser toward the vessel on two occasions, alongside the "deliberate blocking" of the Philippine Coast Guard's vessel, was "a blatant disregard for and a clear violation of Philippine sovereign rights in this part" of the South China Sea, it said in a statement.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armando Balilo told Kyodo News it was the first time the Chinese Coast Guard committed such an act against the country's coast guard ship.
The Philippines intentionally grounded a ship at the Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to enforce its claim in the area and has been delivering food and supplies to military personnel staying there aboard the ship in rotation.
China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan all lay claim to the Spratlys, either in part or in whole. China's claims in the South China Sea, an area rich in minerals and a critical trade route, are considered the most expansive.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin claimed at a news conference that the Philippine ship intruded into the area unauthorized, saying China responded professionally and with restraint, in accordance with international law.
"We urge the Philippine side to respect China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, avoid actions that might escalate the situation," he said, adding that Beijing has been maintaining communications with Manila on the matter.
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