Australian ambassador to the Philippines slams South China Sea move

Australia’s ambassador to the Philippines has publicly rebuked Beijing for what she said was a “dangerous” and “illegal” incident in international waters that is casting a shadow over the final day of Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s visit to Australia.

Writing on social media, Ambassador HK Yu PSM said she shared the Philippines’ “deep concern” over the “dangerous and illegal actions of Chinese vessels near Second Thomas Shoal, causing injury, damage to Philippine vessels and endangering lives and regional stability”.

“States must act in accordance with international law, incl. UNCLOS,” Ms. Yu said.

The incident involved a clash between Philippine and Chinese boats on Monday in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Writing on social media, Philippine military commander Jay Tarriela claimed that the Chinese navy had disrupted a routine rotation and supply mission in the Ayungin Shoal by “ramming” and “towing” Philippine military and coast guard boats.

“The mission was disrupted by illegal and aggressive actions by Chinese naval forces,” he said.

“Vessels of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, China Coast Guard and China Maritime Militia are conducting dangerous maneuvers, including ramming and towing.

“Despite the illegal, aggressive and reckless actions of the Chinese naval forces, our personnel showed restraint and professionalism, refrained from escalating tensions and continued with their mission.

“We strongly condemn the illegal, aggressive and reckless actions of the PLA-N, CCG and CMM.

“Their actions endangered the lives of our personnel and damaged our boats, in clear violation of international law, in particular the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.”

A number of countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan, have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.

China claims ownership of almost the entire sea based on its “nine-dash line” demarcation.

The incident and public rebuke comes as Mr Li meets business leaders in Perth before flying out of the country.

'Shameful': Chinese officials target Cheng Lei at media event

Mr Li’s visit was marked by a diplomatic row on Monday in which parts of the Chinese delegation tried to prevent cameras from filming Sky News reporter Cheng Lei during a meeting between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Mr Li in Canberra.

Speaking to Sky News after the event, Ms Lei said the Chinese delegation “went to great lengths to block me”.

“I’m just guessing that it prevents me from saying or doing something that they think would be a bad look, but it was a bad look in itself,” she said.

The Prime Minister later condemned the behavior.

“There should be no barriers to Australian journalists doing their jobs and we made that clear to the Chinese embassy,” Mr Albanese said.

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