MANILA (Reuters) - A Chinese warship stationed near a reclaimed reef in a disputed part of the South China Sea aimed a “powerful light” at a Philippine military plane on a maritime patrol, Philippine military sources said on Thursday.
On Monday, the Philippines showed journalists surveillance pictures of China’s rapid land reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, which has alarmed G7 and Asian states.
“An Air Force Fokker plane was challenged by a Chinese frigate near Subi Reef, aiming a powerful light as it flew over the disputed area,” a Philippine air force official told Reuters, declining to be named because he was not allowed to talk to the press.
“We consider that as a challenge, but our aircraft went on with its mission. It was conducting maritime patrol at that time.”
This is the first time a Chinese warship has warned a Philippine plane on patrol in disputed area in South China Sea, another military official said.
The second military officer, also declining to be named, told Reuters the plane was flying about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above a Chinese occupied reef, and was warned by the ship, through its radio, to stay away from the area.
Military spokesman Brigadier-General Jose Kakilala played down the incident, saying the ship did not fire flares against the Fokker patrol plane, but declined to comment further on the incident.
China claims most of the potentially energy rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
Hundreds of miles north, Beijing’s coast guard used water cannons on Filipino fishing boats which went to Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop seized by China in 2012.
Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Toby Chopra