China says a Philippine ship landed “illegally” on a disputed atoll

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China said on Saturday that a small civilian ship from the Philippines had “illegally beached itself” on an atoll in the South China Sea claimed by both countries.

The ship, which landed in the Spratly Atoll on Friday, was there for supply purposes, the Chinese Coast Guard posted on the Weixin platform.

The Philippine Coast Guard, National Security Council and State Department did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

The Philippines deployed a small number of troops on a World War II ship that it decommissioned in 1999 as a site to strengthen its claim to the Second Thomas Shoal, known as Ayunjin, in the Philippines, and the Renai Reef in China.

Manila rejected Beijing’s requests last year to tow the ship away in a dispute that strained relations between the two Asian countries.

China asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including areas claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 China’s claims had no legal basis.

(Reporting by Engin Tham; Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by William Mallard)

(Tags for translation)Chinese Coast Guard

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