A month of increased tensions between the United States and China continues to grow hotter after a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel was temporarily blinded by a “military-grade laser” emitting from a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel in the South China Sea.
The PCG believe that the move by the Chinese ship was intentionally done in order to prevent them from transporting supplies to Filipino soldiers in the area. According to a statement from Philippine military, the Chinese should not attempt such a “provocative act” again.
“The Chinese ship illuminated the green laser light twice toward the BRP Malapascua, causing temporary blindness to her crew at the bridge,” read the statement. “The Chinese vessel also made dangerous [maneuvers] by approaching about 150 yards from the vessel’s starboard quarter.”
According to Vice News, it is not certain whether the PCG resupply mission was completed or not.
“The deliberate blocking of the Philippine government ships to deliver food and supplies to our military personnel… is a blatant disregard for, and a clear violation of, Philippine sovereign rights in this part of the West Philippine Sea.”
The South China Sea has been officially renamed the West Philippine Sea by the Philippines since 2012, as their way of establishing sovereign rights over the waters.
Philippine Coast Guard blames China for pointing laser at ship
In addition, the Chinese ship made “dangerous maneuvers,” Manila said in a statement. pic.twitter.com/C2J1WXwOQJ
— BenarNews Philippines (@BenarNewsPH) February 13, 2023
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Jose Antonio Custodio, a Filipino military historian and fellow at the Consortium of Indo-Pacific Researchers, said in an interview with VICE World News that this blatant transgression is nothing new from the Chinese.
“I would look at this as one part of the long list of bullying that the Chinese have done to the Philippines in order to indimidate the Philippine government and make it think twice in pursuing its legal rights that China has illegally seized from it,” said Custodio.
“It’s not going to lead to a war, but it’s part of China’s aggressive acts.”
China’s Foreign Ministry responded in regards to the incident, stating that they “urge the Philippines to avoid such actions, and the actions of China’s staff are professional and restrained.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price spoke on the incident, calling out China’s actions towards the PCG vessel as “provocative and unsafe,” adding that it treaded on the Philippines’ “lawful operations.”
“More broadly, the PRC’s dangerous operational behavior directly threatens regional peace and stability, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order.”
Price continued, saying “The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirmed an armed attack on the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.”
Suspected Chinese “environment monitoring satellite” beams green laser from space over Hawaii. pic.twitter.com/VlQcdpzXTp
— JMs_Ultra_LaserEngraving (@Josh714754) February 9, 2023
Balloons, Lasers, and Now Potentially WWIII
The past month has been full of situations that have forced many in Washington to consider whether we are on a direct path to a force-on-force conflict with China.
Earlier in the month, the Chinese spy balloon captured the attention of the world as it was allowed by the Biden administration to traverse the United States until it was shot down in the Atlantic Ocean after passing through North Carolina. While the Chinese have stated that it was a simple weather balloon that travelled off course, the Department of Defense has stated that it had sophisticated surveillance technology and the ability to maneuver in air.
Additionally, the White House confirmed that the spy balloon flew over sensitive military installations in order to directly collect information.
To make matters more suspicious, NASA scientists confirmed that a Chinese satellite had also emitted giant green beams over the Hawaiian islands several weeks ago, which were caught on camera. While some experts claim that it was harmless and that this specific satellite was simply collecting information regarding airborne pollutants, the timing, location, and scale of the lasers have alarmed many.
As many pundits and commentators wonder whether or not all of this establishes a cold war with China, a recent interview by The Political Insider with national security expert Kelley Vlahos from the Quincy Institute indicates that if tensions get any hotter, we could be facing a war no side would benefit from engaging in.
“They would be a much bigger threat,” Vlahos warned. “And all of the war gaming that’s been done here in Washington, setting up scenarios between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, we lose big time.”
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