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China and Philippines exchange blame after boats collide in contested South China Sea

This picture shows a Philippine vessel that was part of a convoy of civilian boats in the disputed South China Sea on Dec. 10, 2023.
This picture shows a Philippine vessel that was part of a convoy of civilian boats in the disputed South China Sea on Dec. 10, 2023.

A Philippine boat and a Chinese Coast Guard ship collided near a contested reef in the South China Sea on Sunday, and both countries are placing the blame on each other.

The Philippines accused China of targeting civilian supply vessels in the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The BBC, citing a statement from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, reported that a Chinese coast guard ship "rammed" into one of two supply boats and caused "severe damage" of the engine of one boat with a water cannon.

China accused the Philippine boat of "deliberately colliding" into its ship after "disregarding our multiple stern warnings," the BBC reported.

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Rising tensions between 2 countries

The incident comes as tensions between the two countries over contested areas in the South China Sea have flared up in recent weeks.

Sunday's incident also happened a day after the Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard of using water cannons against three of its vessels, AFP reported.

The three boats had been delivering supplies to Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal, off the main island of Luzon. China seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to WSJ, the coast guard ships sprayed water cannons at the ships as they were about 1.4 and 1.9 nautical miles from the contested shoal. The boats were blasted by water cannons at least eight times. Equipment aboard one of the ships was damaged by the attack.

Last week, the Philippines also accused China of swarming a reef near its coast after more than 130 military vessels were "dispersed and scattered" in the vicinity of Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea. The Philippines said the area was entirely in its economic zone and called the increased Chinese presence "alarming."

China in recent years has been building islands in disputed waters. Tensions have also impacted U.S.-China relations. President Joe Biden said in October that he would defend the Philippines if China were to attack.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: South China Sea boat collision: China and Philippines exchange blame