ABOARD BRP SINDANGAN — A Chinese coast guard ship came within a meter (3 feet) of colliding with a Philippine patrol ship it was trying to block in the South China Sea, in an alarming incident that intensified fears that territorial disputes in the waters could spark a larger crisis.
The Philippines on Friday strongly condemned the Chinese ship's maneuvers near Second Thomas Shoal, which the Asian neighbors both claim and has been the scene of frequent confrontations.
One other Philippine coast guard vessel was blocked and surrounded by Chinese coast guard and militia ships in the incident, which dragged on for about eight hours on Wednesday. A major clash in the disputed waters could potentially involve the United States, which has vowed to defend the Philippines, its treaty ally, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under armed attack.
Two smaller supply boats being escorted by the Philippine coast guard in the contested waters managed to breach the Chinese blockade and delivered food and other supplies to a Filipino marine outpost at the shoal.
“We condemn the behavior of the Chinese coast guard vessel. They have been violating international law, particularly the collision regulations,” Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said at a briefing Friday.
A collision was averted when one of the two Philippine coast guard vessels, the BRP Sindangan, rapidly reversed its engine to avoid…