A fishing boat (front) at the Yongshu reef off the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea yesterday as a Chinese maritime administration vessel patrols nearby. The boat is one of 30 from Sanya, Hainan Province, in waters off newly established Sansha City on a 20-day fishing trip.
A CHINESE warship was heading home after it had run aground in waters off the Nansha Islands while on security patrol, averting a possible standoff with the Philippine navy amid rising tension in the South China Sea.
The frigate stranded in waters around the Banyue Shoal was refloated at around 5am yesterday with the assistance of the Chinese navy’s rescue force, a news release on the Defense Ministry’s website said.
The fore end of the ship was slightly damaged but all the crew were safe and uninjured, the release said, adding that the incident had caused no contamination of nearby waters.
The ministry said on Friday that the ship had run aground while on a routine patrol mission at 7pm last Wednesday.
The stranding prompted both China and the Philippines to send out rescue ships.
Philippine navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said at least six Chinese navy ships, along with smaller utility boats, helped refloat the grounded frigate. A Philippine coast guard vessel had been deployed near the area to help if needed, he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said on Saturday that the Philippines was investigating the circumstances that led to the accident. Yesterday, the government expressed relief the incident was over.
"We are glad to note that Chinese authorities have successfully extricated their stranded frigate" and that it will leave the waters, said spokesman Raul Hernandez.
Rommel Banlaoii, executive director of Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told Reuters the incident had made him "nervous." He said: "I think what happened there was an accident, but we don’t want such accidents happening again …"
Meanwhile, the Philippines said yesterday that it would continue to offer another area near the South China Sea to foreign investors for oil and gas exploration despite protests from China. China claims ownership of those waters, which Philippine officials say include an area 55 kilometers off the Philippine province of Palawan.
China said last month it had begun "combat-ready" patrols in the South China Sea, after saying it "vehemently opposed" a Vietnamese law asserting sovereignty over the Xisha and Nansha islands.
The stakes have risen in the area as the US military shifts its attention and resources back to Asia, emboldening the Philippines and Vietnam to take a bolder stance against China.
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