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20 July, 2024
 
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US ready to act after Filipino soldiers fight Chinese barehanded

Filipino soldiers use bare hands against armed Chinese

Filipino soldiers used their ''bare hands'' to fight off armed Chinese coastguard in the disputed South China Sea, a Philippine military chief has said.

General Romeo Brawner Jr, head of the Philippine armed forces, accused Chinese personnel of boarding more than eight motorboats and repeatedly ramming, then boarding, two inflatable vessels on Monday.

Comparing the act to piracy, he said the Chinese had bladed weapons and tried to prevent the transfer of food, firearms and other supplies to a Philippine territorial outpost in the disputed area of the Second Thomas Shoal.

Hostilities between the two countries have escalated in and around the shoal - where the Philippines grounded the BRP Sierra Madre ship in 1999 to create the outpost - which is also claimed by Beijing.

Footage released by the Philippine military on Wednesday showed the dispute, with Chinese personnel brandishing what appeared to be machetes, knives, axes, hammers and sticks while surrounding two supply boats.

Sirens blared constantly as both sides could be heard yelling at each other. The Chinese appeared to smash the Philippine navy boat with a pole and images showed its side floaters slashed and deflated, and another boat with its windshields and navigational screens shattered.

One Filipino solider lost his right thumb and a number of others were injured as M4 rifles, navigation equipment and other supplies were seized, two Philippine security officials said.

"Only pirates do this. Only pirates board, steal, and destroy ships, equipment, and belongings," Gen Brawner said.

He demanded the Chinese return all firearms and equipment and "pay for the damage they caused".

China blamed the Philippines for the confrontation, saying Filipino personnel "trespassed" into the shoal, ignoring its warnings.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said the Chinese coastguard took "professional law-enforcement measures", accusing the Philippines of illegally supplying its vessels.

"No direct measures were taken against the Philippine personnel," he added.

The incident prompted the US to renew a warning that it is obligated to defend the Philippines, a treaty ally.

In addition to China and the Philippines - Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have conflicting territorial claims in the waterway.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea - a claim invalidated by an international tribunal in 2016.

[Sourced: Sky News]

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