Philippines Coast Guard Accuses China of Blinding Crew With ‘Military-Grade’ Laser


The Philippines has accused China of “a blatant disregard” and “clear violation” of sovereignty, alleging that a Chinese coast guard ship last week directed a “military-grade laser light” at a Philippine Coast Guard ship in the hotly contested South China Sea, temporarily blinding the Filipino crew onboard.

statement released Monday by the Philippine Coast Guard said the Chinese vessel “illuminated the green laser light twice” and “also made dangerous maneuvers” to block a Philippine fleet from delivering supplies to another ship grounded at Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal, a disputed atoll 120 miles off the west coast of the Philippine island of Palawan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing later on Monday that the Philippine ship had trespassed into Chinese waters and that, without mentioning the laser, the China Coast Guard responded “in a professional and restrained way.” He added: “We hope the Philippine side will respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and avoid taking any actions that may exacerbate disputes and complicate the situation.”

On Tuesday, the Philippines’ foreign affairs department announced that it had filed a diplomatic protest to China’s Manila embassy over the incident. Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza added that the China Coast Guard’s actions were especially “disturbing and disappointing” because Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had just visited Beijing in January to try to improve bilateral relations.

The episode is the latest sign of rising tensions in the region. Just days earlier, the Philippines reinvigorated its military ties with the United States. The two countries agreed to significantly expand America’s presence in the Southeast Asian archipelago, as U.S. officials grow increasingly worried about China’s threat to nearby Taiwan and as the Philippines remains concerned about territorial incursions by its largest neighbor.

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