China’s use of a laser aimed at a Philippine Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea drew a sharp response from the United States on Monday. The action, which the Philippines said temporarily blinded the crew, was “provocative and unsafe,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
The Philippines said earlier that on Feb. 6, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel aimed a “military-grade” green laser light twice at its Coast Guard ship and made “dangerous maneuvers” by coming within 150 yards of the rear right of the boat.
The incident came days after the Philippines agreed to give U.S. military forces access to four new military facilities. The tense encounter took place in disputed waters, called Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines and Ren’ai Reef in China.
A video shared by Philippine news media shows a ship beaming green lasers late in the evening.
WATCH: In an act of “blatant disregard” of the Philippine sovereign rights, the Philippine Coast Guard shares video of Chinese Coast Guard vessel pointing “military grade” laser towards PCG vessel, causing “temporary blindness” of its crew. | @JEMendozaINQ pic.twitter.com/u2GdTd9rwg
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) February 13, 2023
The Philippine Coast Guard, in a statement Monday, said the “deliberate blocking” of its ship was a “blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea.”
Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in a news briefing Monday that the vessel “intruded into the waters off the Ren’ai Reef without Chinese permission” and that the Philippines should “avoid taking any actions that may exacerbate disputes and complicate the situation.”
China and the Philippines are communicating through diplomatic channels on the issue, he added.