China's coast guard says 'allowed' Philippines to evacuate sick person in S.China Sea

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s coast guard said it had on humanitarian grounds “allowed” the Philippines to evacuate a person who had fallen ill on a rusting warship beached on the Second Thomas Shoal, a claim Manila’s coast guard said was “ridiculous”.

“This statement confirms their illegal deployment of vessels within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and highlights their government’s view that the preservation of human life and welfare requires approval,” Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Jay Tarriela said on X.

In a statement, the Chinese Coast Guard said it had monitored the entire rescue operation on Sunday, which a spokesperson said was made at the request of the Philippines.

The Philippine coast guard then reported “numerous obstructing and delaying manoeuvres” by China’s coast guard while it carried out the medical evacuation.

A month ago, the PCG accused its Chinese counterpart of blocking a medical evacuation from the warship, calling the actions “barbaric and inhumane”.

China’s foreign ministry said the same day that China will allow the Philippines to deliver supplies and evacuate personnel if Manila notifies Beijing ahead of a mission.

The Philippines has soldiers living aboard a rusty, aging warship on the Second Thomas Shoal, which was deliberately grounded by Manila in 1999 to reinforce its maritime claims.

China’s navy has clashed several times with Philippines forces seeking to resupply the grounded ship.

China claims most of the South China Sea, a key conduit for $3 trillion of annual ship-borne trade, as its own territory. Beijing rejects the 2016 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which said its expansive maritime claims had no legal basis.

(Reporting by Liz Lee and Shanghai newsroom; Additional reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Michael Perry and Muralikumar Anantharaman and Miral Fahmy)

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