Pacific on the Edge of War as Chinese Naval Forces Seize Military Ships of US Ally Philippines (2024)

Commentary

By Jared HarrisJune 20, 2024 at 1:43pm

The Pacific appears increasingly nearer to war as Chinese vessels encircled and boarded military resupply boats belonging to a key American ally.

Tensions erupted as the Chinese Coast Guard seized ships of a Philippine Navy resupply mission that was underway near the Second Thomas Shoal. The Armed Forces of the Philippines revealed pictures of the Monday confrontation in a social media post, calling the attack “coercive, aggressive, and barbaric.”

The shallow reef, also known as Ayungin Shoal, is part of the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, one of the many areas in the region claimed by Beijing.

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Will war erupt in the Pacific?

The Philippine military was resupplying a tank landing ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which was intentionally run aground on a reef just off the disputed shoal in 1999 to bolster the country’s claim on the island.

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Although likely not even remotely seaworthy at this point, the Sierra Madre remains an actively crewed commissioned vessel of the Philippine Navy.

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China has similarly fortified its claims on the area, deploying missiles to some of the islands in 2018.

Videos show the resupply mission turning to blows as China became involved. In one clip, Chinese sailors could be seen waving and swinging axes, machetes and other melee weapons as the boats closed in to become a chaotic mass.

RORE RECAP | During the AFP’s critical humanitarian rotation and resupply operations at BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) in Ayungin Shoal on June 17, the China Coast Guard’s use of violence and intimidation tactics damaged AFP vessels and severely injured Philippine Navy personnel.… pic.twitter.com/KR0sIxuczY

— Armed Forces of the Philippines (@TeamAFP) June 20, 2024

According to a report by The Associated Press, the skirmish left a number of wounded Filipinos, including a man who lost an entire thumb.

China’s reckless and dangerous behavior did not stop there.

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Video taken from overhead shows Chinese ships trapping a Philippine vessel, locking it in place.

Crammed in the middle by two CCG boats is an AFP Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) which was forcibly surrounded, dragged and eventually towed away from BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) with the intention to isolate it from the rest of the Filipino troops. pic.twitter.com/1kZRx3Lvay

— Armed Forces of the Philippines (@TeamAFP) June 19, 2024

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Chinese forces were able to seize two of the supply boats, stripping them of multiple M4 rifles as well as equipment and supplies.

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Although the boats were recovered by Philippine forces, the vessels were left severely damaged. Manila is now demanding the return of seized equipment and weaponry.

Beijing asserted the Philippines were at fault for the incident, citing its claim that the land and waters are Chinese territory.

“The Chinese coast guard at the scene has taken professional law-enforcement measures with restraint aimed at stopping the illegal supply mission by the Philippine vessels and no direct measures were taken against the Philippine personnel,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said.

Amid the escalating tensions, the United States is standing firm by its Pacific ally.

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“We stand with our Philippine allies and condemn the escalatory and irresponsible actions by the PRC to deny the Philippines from executing a lawful maritime operation in the South China Sea,” a Pentagon release said, as cited by the U.S. Naval Institute.

The mutual defense pact between America and the Philippines would be triggered after an armed attack against any of the Pacific nation’s military forces.

Melee weapons apparently do not trigger a military response, a fact Beijing seems to understand deeply.

In 2020 and the following years, Chinese forces stationed in the disputed Ladakh region violently brawled with their Indian counterparts on the disputed Sino-Indian border.

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The two sides pelted each other with rocks and sticks, engaging in a heated fight without firing a single shot. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and 76 wounded.

While it seems the Philippines will not trigger a war over an armed melee, the country has drawn something of a red line at the killing of a Filipino citizen.

Considering Beijing’s reckless actions in the South China Sea, this may be an inevitability.

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Tags:

China, Military, Pentagon, Philippines, U.S. Navy, War

Jared Harris

Assignment Editor

Jared has written more than 200 articles and assigned hundreds more since he joined The Western Journal in February 2017. He was an infantryman in the Arkansas and Georgia National Guard and is a husband, dad and aspiring farmer.

Jared has written more than 200 articles and assigned hundreds more since he joined The Western Journal in February 2017. He is a husband, dad, and aspiring farmer. He was an infantryman in the Arkansas and Georgia National Guard. If he's not with his wife and son, then he's either shooting guns or working on his motorcycle.

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Pacific on the Edge of War as Chinese Naval Forces Board and Seize Military Boats of US Ally

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Pacific on the Edge of War as Chinese Naval Forces Seize Military Ships of US Ally Philippines (2024)

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