One Country’s Coast Guard Is Now Shooting Ships With Lasers?

China's coast guard has been accused of hitting a Philippines ship with military-grade lasers.

By Charlene Badasie | Published


The Philippines has accused China of hitting one of its coast guard vessels with military-grade lasers. The incident, which temporarily blinded some crew members, took place on February 13th in the disputed South China Sea. The archipelagic country described the move as a blatant violation of Manila’s sovereign rights.

According to NPR, the Chinese coast guard ship also maneuvered dangerously close to the Philippine patrol vessel BRP Malapascua, blocking it from approaching Second Thomas Shoal. The submerged reef has been occupied by Philippine forces for a while. The nation’s coast guard detailed the incident on its official social media pages with photos of the lasers.

On February 6, 2023, a China Coast Guard (CCG)…

Posted by Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday, February 12, 2023

China’s Foreign Ministry responded in a statement, saying the Philippine patrol ship trespassed into its section of the waters (known as Renai Reef) without permission. “The maritime police vessel defended China’s sovereignty and maritime order in accordance with domestic and international law,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, without referencing the lasers via CNN.


Wenbin added that China hopes the Philippines will earnestly respect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. This will avoid any further actions that may lead to the expansion of the dispute and complication of the situation. Without mention of the blinding lasers, he said both countries are maintaining communication through diplomatic channels in this regard.

However, the Philippine coast guard said its vessel was simply assisting with a navy mission to deliver food and supplies to troops on an atoll in the disputed waterway. “I think it’s time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative act that will endanger the lives of people,” military spokesperson Medel Aguilar said about the lasers via Reuters.

The attack with lasers isn’t the first time the Philippines has experienced problems from China. In 2022, the country filed approximately 200 diplomatic protests against the East Asian republic for aggressive actions in the disputed waters. That’s largely due to the latter claiming the South China Sea almost in its entirety, putting it on a collision course with other claimants.

This includes most of the islands within it, like the Spratlys, an archipelago consisting of 100 small islands. China also reigns over reefs claimed in full or part by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Although the Chinese coast guard tried to block Philippine ships in the waters before, this was the first time it used lasers and caused physical suffering among innocent personnel.

While the United States lays no claims to the disputed sea, it has deployed forces to patrol the waters to promote freedom of movement and prevent attacks with lasers. The decision angered Beijing, whose leaders told Washington to stop meddling in “a purely Asian dispute.” Still, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps held joint exercises in the area due to heightened tensions over an alleged spy balloon.

The United States has been taking steps to rebuild its military in the Philippines more than 30 years after the closure of its large bases in the country and reinforcing an arc of military alliances in Asia, NPR reports.