Ships Attacked by Chinese Water Cannon in South China Sea

( – Pictures from an incident in the South China Sea give the impression of sea ships having a bit of fun, but they’re not. Two Chinese coast guard ships fired water cannons from either side of a Philippine ship stuck between them on April 30th as part of a territorial dispute over that section of the ocean.

The Philippine ship was part of that nation’s coast guard, and the country’s authorities say it was carrying out a “legitimate patrol”. The confrontation happened near a tiny rocky island called Scarborough Shoal, located about 130 miles from the main Philippine island.

Though no crew on the Philippine ship were injured, the Coast Guard reported the high-pressure Chinese water blasts damaged the vessel’s canopy and railing.

On social media, China is claiming to have routed foreign invaders from its seas. China posted on the Weibo platform that their coast guard had acted legally and repelled Philippine ships that had no right to be there.

Who exactly owns the rights of way in the South China Sea depends on who you ask. An international court tried to strike a deal between China and the Philippines in 2016. However, China has refused to respect the arbitration. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in 2022 that China has no authority over much of the South China Sea and that it is considered international waters. The U.S. has threatened a response to China if it engages in any armed attacks on Philippine vessels in what it sees as open waters.

China has been patrolling the South China Sea for decades, far outside the waters near the country’s coastline. The Communist nation has set up camps on numerous small islands, and in some areas has built military and airport facilities. Though there are no buildings on Scarborough Shoal where the recent water cannon incident took place, the Asia Maritime Transparency initiative reports China’s coast guard has frequently patrolled the area since at least 2012. Philippine officials claim China has rebuilt a 1200-foot water barrier blocking access to the shoal and surrounding waters.

There was at least one similar incident in March of this year, with Chinese ships aiming water cannons at Philippine craft near Second Thomas Shoal.

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