A Philippine government vessel made a dash for shallow waters around the disputed reef in the South China Sea, evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path to deliver food, water and fresh troops to a military outpost on the outpost.
The cat-and-mouse encounter on Saturday, witnessed by the media invited onboard the Philippine ship, offered a rare glimpse into the tensions playing out routinely in waters that are one of the region’s biggest flashpoints.
It’s also a reminder of how assertive China has become in pressing its claims to disputed territory far from its mainland.
The outpost is a huge, rusting World War Two transport vessel that the Philippine navy intentionally ran aground in 1999 to mark its claim to the reef.
There, around eight Filipino soldiers live for three months at a time in harsh conditions on a reef that Manila says is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, which claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, says the shoal is part of its territory.