Philippine officials said on Wednesday that Chinese coast guard vessels came within meters of their supply ships after days of heated diplomatic exchanges over ownership of some of the disputed South China Sea islands. The Philippine Coast Guard said the vessels — at least three of which had three times the standard operational strength required of a navy vessel — sailed “abruptly and aggressively” into Philippine waters on Sunday afternoon. A coast guard spokesman said that while one of the vessels was not a Chinese coast guard vessel, its actions were “constitutionally an act of China and … of China’s foreign ministry.” The coast guard told local reporters that the vessel also fired water cannons in a “provocative manner.”
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte publicly accused China of stealing the Scarborough Shoal — which is known as Second Thomas Shoal in the Philippines — last week. While Chinese ships took over the reef in 2012, the Philippines disputes this, saying that Chinese ships illegally captured it. “There will come a day when you (China) will think of me and see what you have done. When that time comes, it will be the time for revenge,” Duterte warned. He said that “should China seek revenge, I will finish with you,” after “you steal our stuff.” (China’s claim to the islands is disputed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.) “I do not mind,” Duterte added, “if it’s war … You start it and I will finish it.”
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