Manila: Beijing used bladed weapons in South China Sea clash

The Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard of launching a "brutal attack" with bladed weapons during a clash in the South China Sea earlier this week, CNN reported.

It is a major escalation in a raging dispute threatening to drag the US into a new global conflict.

Footage released by the Philippine military shows Chinese coast guard officials swinging an axe and other bladed or pointed instruments at Filipino soldiers and slashing their rubber boat, which Manila called a "brazen act of aggression."

The Philippines and China blame each other for the confrontation off Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands on June 17.

It occurred during a Philippine mission to supply fuel to soldiers stationed on a beached World War II-era warship that asserts Manila's territorial claims to the atoll.

The incident is the latest in a series of increasingly violent confrontations in the resource-rich and strategically important waterway.

The scenes captured in the latest footage mark a new turning point in long-simmering tensions. China is adopting new, much more overtly aggressive tactics that analysts say appear calculated to test how the Philippines and its key defense ally, the United States, will react.

China's foreign ministry said on 19 June that "law enforcement measures" taken by its coast guard in the confrontation were "professional and restrained" and "no direct action was taken against Philippine personnel".

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam in Singapore, pointed out that it was unprecedented for Chinese maritime law enforcement to board a Philippine warship.

"They may be rubber boats, but that doesn't change the fact that they are ships of the Philippine Navy, and under international law, they enjoy what we call sovereign immunity," Koh said.

"This is very dangerous because if something happens, it could even be interpreted as an act of war," he added. | BGNES