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Philippines accuses China of aggression near disputed reef

The Philippines has accused the Chinese coast guard of harassment, obstruction and “dangerous manoeuvres” against its vessels.

The allegation by Manila came on Wednesday after another incident near a strategic feature of the South China Sea that has become a flashpoint between the two countries.

Philippine coast guard boats were assisting a naval operation on June 30 when they were “constantly followed, harassed, and obstructed by the significantly larger Chinese coast guard vessels”, Philippine coast guard spokesperson, Jay Tarriela, said via Twitter.

It took place near the Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef over which the Philippines stakes a claim to sovereignty via a handful of troops who live aboard a rusty World War Two-era American ship that was intentionally grounded in 1999.

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the issue was not mentioned at a regular briefing on Wednesday by the foreign ministry in Beijing.

The vessels had to reduce speed to prevent a collision, Mr Tarriela said.

He did not say what the naval operation entailed.

Reuters has, however, reported that the Philippine military conducts regular resupply missions for the troops on the US ship, the Sierra Madre, including in February, when it accused China of aggression and directing a “military-grade laser” at one of its vessels.

The shoal is located inside the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Mr Tarriela described as “alarming” what he said was the presence of Chinese navy ships in the area, adding that raised “greater concerns”.