BEIJING — A Chinese naval frigate has run aground while patrolling disputed waters in the South China Sea, the defense ministry said July 13, amid tensions with the Philippines over territorial claims.
The ship was on “routine patrol” when it became stranded near Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands on July 11, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
The shoal is off the Philippine island of Palawan.
No one was injured in the accident and the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy was now organizing a rescue, the statement said, but gave no further details.
The Sydney Morning Herald on July 13 quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying the frigate, which has been discouraging fishing boats from the Philippines from entering the area, was “thoroughly stuck.”
China says it has sovereign rights to all the South China Sea, believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, including areas close to the coastlines of other countries and hundreds of miles from its own landmass. Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also claim parts of the South China Sea.
The Spratlys are one of the biggest island chains in the area.
The rival claims have long made the South China Sea one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints, and tensions have escalated over the past year.
The Philippines and Vietnam have complained China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its actions in the area, such as harassing fishermen, and also through bullying diplomatic tactics.