According to the Philippines, a Chinese Coast Guard ship blinded the crew of one of their ships with a powerful laser light. Although the incident happened in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines has called it “a flagrant violation of its sovereignty”.

According to Manila, the patrol vessel “BRP Malapascua” was targeted by a military laser light, temporarily blinding part of the crew. It would be a strong green laser light aimed twice at the ship. The Chinese ship would also have come “dangerously close”, to about 137 meters, according to a statement from the Philippine authorities.

The incident is believed to have occurred on Feb. 6 near a submarine reef in the South China Sea, “Second Thomas Shoal.” The Philippine authorities posted photos on Facebook last night that should substantiate the incident. However, China itself has not yet responded to the allegations.

The South China Sea has long been a disputed area. China claims the entire area, including several smaller islands. The South China Sea is about 3.36 million square kilometres in size, or more than 100 times the area of Belgium. But other countries in the region, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, dispute that “Chinese sovereignty.” The Philippines has given part of the area its own name, the West Philippine Sea. The South China Sea is a strategically important area militarily and economically.

The Philippines also claims the Second Thomas Shoal. The Malapascua was en route to another vessel for supplies at the time of the incident. The Philippines calls the fact that they were hindered in doing so a “flagrant violation” of their “sovereign rights in this part of the Western Philippine Sea”. Such an incident would have already taken place in August.

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