China has reiterated its demand for the removal of BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine military vessel grounded at Ayungin Shoal, following the recent water cannon firing incident in the disputed islands.

In a statement released by its embassy in Manila, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Philippine government had promised on several occasions to tow away the military vessel.

“In 1999, the Philippines sent a military vessel and deliberately ran it aground at Ren’ai Jiao, attempting to change the status quo of Ren’ai Jiao illegally. China immediately made serious démarches to the Philippines, demanding the removal of the vessel. The Philippines promised several times to tow it away, but has yet to act,” the ministry affairs statement read.

China asserted that its Coast Guard vessels acted appropriately and professionally in halting the Philippine vessels, claiming their actions were restrained and beyond criticism.

On Saturday, August 5, as the Philippine Coast Guard was conducting a resupply mission in the West Philippine Sea, they were met with water cannons from the CCG in an attempt to hinder their activity.

Beijing alleges that the Philippine vessels were attempting to transport construction materials to refurbish and fortify the stranded Philippine ship, which stands as the nation’s stronghold over the Ayungin Shoal.

“Not only that, the Philippines sought to overhaul and reinforce the military vessel in order to permanently occupy Ren’ai Jiao. On August 5, in disregard of China’s repeated dissuasion and warning, the Philippines sent two vessels that intruded into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao and tried to deliver the construction materials for overhauling and reinforcing the grounded military vessel,” the statement read.

“Such actions violated China’s sovereignty and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC),” it highlighted.

China also criticized the U.S. for dipping its toes in the conflict, accusing it of manipulating the 2016 arbitration proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“The South China Sea arbitration was a pure political drama staged in the name of the law with the US pulling strings behind the scenes. The so-called award contravenes international laws, including UNCLOS, and is illegal, null and void. The US’s attempt to make an issue of the illegal award will not affect China’s firm resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests in accordance with the law,” the statement further said.

The Philippine government previously summoned the Chinese Ambassador and lodged a note verbale over the incident.

The United States, the European Union, Australia, and Japan expressed support for the Philippines and concern over the Chinese actions.

Ayungin Shoal is a Philippine-held island located approximately 105 nautical miles west of Palawan.