Fact checks on militaries

FACT CHECK: No US attack on Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal


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FACT CHECK: No US attack on Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal
There are no reports from reputable sources that support the claim, which was posted amid rising tensions between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea

Claim: US jets and missiles hit Chinese vessels near Scarborough Shoal.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a YouTube video posted on May 10, with 25,691 views, 260 likes, and 11 comments as of writing.

The video is titled: “Ambush!! US Ally Jets and Missiles Hit China Vessels near Scarborough Shoal.”

The bottom line: There have been no reports of the United States or its allies using jets and missiles against Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Neither the US nor China’s defense departments reported any attacks in the area.

South China Sea tensions: The claim comes amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea, as China continues to reject the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating its sweeping claims over the disputed waterway. 

The US has committed to support the Philippines in the face of China’s increasing aggression. Recently, the US, Japan, and Australia sided with the Philippines and denounced China’s “dangerous use” of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea. This was in response to China’s use of water cannons against a Philippine Coast Guard vessel in Scarborough Shoal on April 30, which resulted in structural damage to the vessel.


On May 10, the Philippines and the US concluded the 2024 Balikatan exercises, which aimed at enhancing “military cooperation and readiness” between the two treaty allies. The military drills included the navies of the Philippines, United States, and France sailing together in the West Philippine Sea and a ship-sinking exercise involving a decommissioned China-made vessel.

China-US relations: On May 10, China’s military said it drove away the USS Halsey, which entered the waters off Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, claiming that the move “seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty and security.” The US Navy, however, argued that it had asserted navigational rights and freedoms “consistent with international law.”

China has repeatedly accused the US of threatening peace and stability in the South China Sea, and called on Washington not to intervene in the maritime issues between Beijing and Manila. 

Previous fact-checks: Rappler and VERA Files have previously fact-checked claims regarding the US and the Philippines supposedly destroying Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal. Katarina Ruflo/Rappler.com

Katarina Ruflo is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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