Chinese and Philippine ship collision just the latest in a string of South China Sea confrontations


BANGKOK (AP) — China has been at odds with many other countries in the Asia-Pacific for years over its sweeping maritime claims, including almost all of the South China Sea, a strategic and resource-rich waterway around which Beijing has drawn a 10-dash-line on official maps to delineate what it says it its territory.

Beijing is in the midst of a massive military expansion and has become increasingly assertive in pursuing its claims, giving rise to more frequent direct confrontations, primarily with the Philippines, though it is also involved in longtime territorial disputes with Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

A 2016 arbitration ruling by a United Nations tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, but China did not participate in the proceedings and rejected the ruling.

At stake are fishing rights, access to undersea oil reserves and other natural resources, as well as the possibility of establishing military outposts.

The U.S., a treaty partner with the Philippines, has raised concerns about China's actions and President Joe Biden has pledged “ironclad” support for Manila. That's sparked fears that if an incident escalates, it could spark a wider conflict.

In the latest incident, 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 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.”

Here's a look at some other incidents and developments in recent months:

June 4: Philippine officials say the Chinese coast guard seized food dropped for Filipino naval personnel on an outpost on Second Thomas Shoal. Philippine Gen. Romeo Brawner says the Chinese may have suspected the packages contained construction materials intended to reinforce the rusty Philippine navy ship deliberately run aground at Second Thomas Shoal to serve as a Philippine outpost.

May 16: About 100 Filipino activists on wooden boats change plans to distribute food to Filipinos based on the Second Thomas Shoal after being shadowed by Chinese coast guard ships through the night. Instead, they distribute food packs and fuel southeast of the disputed territory.

April 30: Chinese coast guard ships fire water cannons at two Philippine patrol vessels near the Scarborough Shoal, another hotly disputed area where tensions have flared on and off. Philippine officials say water cannons could damage their ships’ engines, or even capsize the smaller vessels. China called its move a “necessary measure,” accusing the Philippines of violating China’s sovereignty. China also re-installed a floating barrier across the entrance to the shoal’s vast fishing lagoon.

April 23: A Chinese coast guard ship blocks a Philippine patrol vessel near Second Thomas Shoal, causing a near-collision. Before the incident, a Chinese naval vessel had shadowed two Philippine patrol boats as they cruised near Subi, one of seven barren reefs in the Spratly Islands that China has transformed in the last decade into a missile-protected island military outpost. Subi is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

March 23: Chinese coast guard hits Philippine supply boat with water cannons near Second Thomas Shoal, injuring crew members and damaging the vessel, Philippine officials say. China says the Philippines intruded into its territorial waters despite repeated warnings.

March 5: Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels are involved in a minor collision off the Second Thomas Shoal, and four Filipino crew members are injured when China blasts a supply boat with water cannons, shattering its windshield. China's coast guard says the Philippine ships were illegally intruding in the area’s waters and accused one of them of ramming a Chinese vessel.

Jan. 12: Filipino fishing boat captain says Chinese coast guard drives him away from Scarborough Shoal, forces him to dump his catch into the sea.

Dec. 9, 2023: The Chinese coast guard surrounds a supply ship, blasts it with a water cannon in the area around Second Thomas Shoal. The head of the Philippine military, who was aboard the supply boat, says they were also “bumped” by a Chinese ship.

Nov. 10, 2023: China blasts Philippine supply ship with water cannon near Second Thomas Shoal; China says it acted appropriately under maritime law to defend its territory.

Oct. 22, 2023: A Chinese coast guard ship and accompanying vessel ram Philippine coast guard ship and a military-run supply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal. Chinese coast guard says the Philippine vessels “trespassed” into what it said were Chinese waters.

Sept. 26, 2023: The Philippine coast guard says it removed a floating barrier from blocking the entrance to the lagoon at the Scarborough Shoal, put in place by China to prevent Filipino fishing boats from entering. China would later replace the barrier.