Chinese Vessels Shadow Philippines Naval Activity Near Thitu Island

United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.

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At approximately 2300 EST on March 20th, 2024, A Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel approached Thitu Island for standard resupply and other civil activities. The sailors aboard that vessel reported that they were being shadowed by a PLAN vessel, likely a Type 054A (NATO: Jiangkai II) and at least nine other Chinese Maritime Militia vessels, all within 10NM of the island.

Initially there were a flurry of posts on X concerning the event with multiple users claiming that a PLAN helicopter overflew Sand Clay and the PLAN vessels were hailing the Filipino vessel. However, four of these posts were deleted.

The Chinese Coast Guard spokesperson Gan Yu made the following announcement concerning the Filipino activity near the island:

“On March 21, 34 Philippine personnel ignored China’s warnings and dissuasion and illegally landed on the Wire Reef. China’s indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, including the Wire Reef, and its adjacent waters has a full historical and legal basis. China firmly opposes the Philippine act, which violates China’s territorial sovereignty, violates the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and undermines peace and stability in the South China Sea. We urge the Philippine side to immediately stop the infringements. The China Coast Guard will continue to carry out rights protection and law enforcement activities in waters under China’s jurisdiction in accordance with the law.”

Thitu Island (Wire Reef) was occupied by the Philippines from the Republic of China in 1971 during a storm. It is currently the most established military outpost of the Philippines in the Chinese-dominated Spratley Islands. It is also the only outpost in the Spratley Islands that have a civilian outpost. There is a small civilian community that lives on the island, supported by a market, school, and other civil infrastructure. There are anywhere from 30-50 civilians living there.