(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines confirmed Friday, July 13, that a Chinese Navy warship ran aground at Half Moon Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands that is claimed by both the Philippines and China.
Quoting the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, the Chinese Embassy said it happened accidentally during a routine patrol mission. No personnel was injured, it added.
“Currently, the rescue work by the Chinese Navy is under way,” the embassy said.
Earlier Friday, an Australian news website said a Chinese warship is “thoroughly stuck” in a reef within Philippine territory.
Citing Western diplomatic sources, the Sydney Morning Herald said the warship on Thursday, July 12, “pinned itself” to a reef in Half Moon Shoal.
The stranded vessel is believed to be People's Liberation Army Navy vessel No. 560, a Jianghu-class frigate. It "has in the past been involved in aggressively discouraging Filipino fishing boats from the area," said the Australian report.
The Philippines is ready to assist the warship, said Western Command Lt Col Neil Estrella. (Read: PH ready to assist Chinese warship.)
"Salvage operations could be diplomatically challenging, given the vessel appears to have run aground within 200 kilometers of the Philippine coast, which is squarely within what Manila claims to be its exclusive economic zone (EEZ)," the Sydney Morning Herald article said.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country's EEZ is the area 200 nautical miles from its baselines within which a state has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others. China's alleged violation of the Philippines' EEZ rights also sparked the ongoing dispute over Scarborough Shoal.
"The accident could not have come at a more embarrassing moment for the Chinese leadership, who have been pressing territorial claims and flexing the country's muscle ahead of a leadership transition later this year," the report added. — Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.