China-Philippines South China Sea Clashes: A Timeline Following Latest Ship Collision

China’s extensive maritime claims, encompassing almost the entirety of the South China Sea, a strategically vital and resource-rich waterway, have been a source of tension with numerous Asia-Pacific nations for years. Beijing’s official maps depict a 10-dash-line to define its claimed territory.

China’s ongoing military expansion and increasingly assertive pursuit of its claims have led to more frequent direct confrontations, particularly with the Philippines. China is also engaged in long-standing 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 rejected the ruling as it did not participate in the proceedings.

The stakes in these disputes include fishing rights, access to undersea oil reserves and other natural resources, and the potential establishment of military outposts.

The U.S., a treaty partner with the Philippines, has expressed concerns about China’s actions and President Joe Biden has pledged “ironclad” support for Manila. This has raised fears of an escalation of tensions and a potential incident.

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 claims that a Philippine supply ship entered waters near the Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands that’s claimed by several nations. The Philippine military dismissed the Chinese coast guard’s account as “deceptive and misleading.”

Here’s a look at other recent incidents and developments:

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

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

April 30: Chinese 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 defended its actions as 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. Prior to 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 into a missile-protected island military outpost over the past decade. 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, according to Philippine officials. China maintains that 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 claims that 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, forcing 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 .

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.

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