Chinese ship accused of seizing suspected rocket debris from Philippines

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A Chinese coast guard ship has been accused of “forcefully retrieving” a floating object, believed to be rocket debris, from a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea.

Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos of the Philippine Navy said a Chinese vessel blocked their course twice, before finally seizing the object.

Chinese officials have yet to respond to the allegations.

It comes as US Vice President Kamala Harris visits the Philippines.

The debris was first spotted on Sunday at 06:45 local time (22:45 GMT Saturday), near the Philippine-controlled Pagasa Island, also known as Thitu Island, said Vice Adm Carlos.

He added that officers proceeded to the site and found a “metallic” unidentified floating object.

As they were towing the object back, a Chinese coast guard vessel with bow number 5203 approached their location and “subsequently blocked their pre-plotted course twice”.

He said the Chinese boat then “forcefully retrieved” the object by cutting the towing line attached to the Philippines’ rubber boat. No one was injured in the incident, he added.

Spokesperson Cheryl Tindog said the sailors did not fight the seizure since it was “not a matter of life and death”.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs said they were aware of the incident and that a review would be conducted.

Earlier this month, metal debris was similarly found off Busuanga island in western Palawan and in Calintaan town in Occidental Mindoro province.

Officials had said they believed the pieces were likely to be parts of China’s Long March 5B rocket, which blasted off earlier in November from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on Hainan island.

Agencies

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