The Philippines says Chinese boats have seized supplies dropped at the Philippine outpost

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The Philippine military said Tuesday that Chinese boats have illegally “seized” food and medicine and dropped them at a Philippine outpost in the South China Sea.

The alleged incident took place on May 19 at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, where Philippine troops are stationed on a grounded naval vessel to assert Manila’s claims over the waters.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea and there have been a series of clashes involving Chinese and Philippine ships at disputed reefs, often during Philippine supply missions to Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippine military accused China of “aggressive and unprovoked interference” when two Chinese rigid-hulled inflatable boats reportedly came within 10 meters of the Sierra Madre ship and seized an air-dropped package intended for Philippine troops .

It was the first time supplies had been seized, the military said.

“This action to seize or seize our supplies is illegal,” military chief General Romeo Brawner told reporters.

“You’re not supposed to seize another country’s supplies, even in a war.”

Chinese personnel aboard the boats later dumped the items in the water, Philippine Navy spokesman West Philippine Naval Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said.

It was not clear whether they belonged to the Chinese coast guard or the navy, the military said.

Philippine forces were able to recover most of the items dropped from the air that day, the military said.

‘Stop making problems’

China hit back on Tuesday, insisting that the Sierra Madre was illegally grounded on the reef and urging the Philippines to “stop making trouble.”

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“The Philippine side has also repeatedly provoked and intensified conflict, escalating the situation. This is unacceptable to us,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters.

Second Thomas Shoal is located about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan Island.

Philippine supply missions have usually taken place by sea, but Mr. Brawner said last month they were conducting an airdrop to avoid “resistance” and “intimidation.”

Mr Brawner denied reports that Philippine troops aboard the Sierra Madre had aimed their weapons at the Chinese boats.

China is brushing aside rival claims to the South China Sea by other countries, including the Philippines, ignoring an international ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

To make its case, Beijing is deploying coast guard and other boats to patrol the waters and has turned several reefs into artificial islands that it has militarized.

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