Last Monday, Qin Gang of the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that China Coast Guard vessels on the previous day had prevented two Philippine-flagged ships from approaching Second Thomas Shoal. Beijing’s sailors “spoke through amplifier” and warded off the intruders, the spokesman explained. “It is known to all that China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their surrounding waters, including the Ren’ai Reef,” said Qin, using Beijing’s name for the shoal.
In fact, only Beijing thinks China has sovereignty over Ren’ai, which Manila calls Ayungin Shoal. The long and thin coral outcropping is part of the Spratlys, 250 islands and reefs covering 165,000 square miles of the South China Sea. The contested reef is 105 nautical miles from Palawan Island of the Philippines. Hainan Island, China’s closest point, is about five times farther away.
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