The Philippines accuses China of seizing a facility in disputed waters

The Philippine Navy on Monday accused China’s coast guard of “violently” seizing a floating object its troops had just found in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

A senior Philippine naval official made the announcement ahead of a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to the neighboring Philippine island, aimed at strengthening ties amid China’s growing regional influence.

A Chinese coast guard vessel on Sunday “blocked” a Philippine rubber boat that was towing an “unidentified floating object” toward Titu Island, which is under the Philippine garrison in the Spratly Group, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos said.

The coast guard ship then deployed a team of inflatable boats that “forcefully retrieved the floating object by cutting the towline attached to the (Philippine) rubber boat,” the statement said.

The object “looks similar” to floating debris resembling Chinese missile fairings that were found this month on Busuanga Island, north of Palawan, said military spokeswoman Maj. Cheryl Tindog told reporters.

The object, which was first seen by the Filipinos 732 meters (800 yards) west of Tito in the morning, was then brought to a Chinese coast guard vessel when the Philippine troops returned to their station, Carlos said.

Filipino soldiers were not injured in the incident, he added.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry said it was “aware of the incident and awaiting detailed reports from maritime law enforcement.”

The incident was reported a few hours before The US vice president began a three-day visit.

Harris is scheduled to meet with the president of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr later on Monday and visit Palawan Island in the western Philippines, the nearest major land mass to the Spratlys, on Tuesday.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Seaa resource-rich waterway through which trillions of dollars in maritime trade pass each year. The Philippines accuses China of seizing a facility in disputed waters

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