The Philippines accused the Chinese regime of “forcibly” seizing a floating object in the South China Sea

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The Manila indictment came on the eve of a visit to the country by US Vice President Kamala Harris aimed at boosting ties amid growing Beijing regional influence

Philippines accused Chinese regime of “forcibly” seizing a floating object in the South China Sea

A ship The Chinese coast guard “blocked” a Philippine rubber dinghy towing an “unidentified floating object” to the Philippine-garrisoned island of Thitu in the Spratly group on Sunday, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said. (REUTERS./file)

The Philippine navy on Monday accused the Chinese coast guard of seizing a floating object “by force” that his troops had just recaptured in the disputed waters of theSouth China Sea.

A senior Philippine navy official made the accusation on the eve of a US Vice President Kamala Harris visits a nearby Philippine island to boost ties amid China's growing regional influence.

A Chinese coast guard ship on Sunday “blocked” a Philippine rubber dinghy towing a“unidentified floating object” towards the island of Thitu, garrisoned by the Philippines, in the Spratly group, said Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos.

< p class="paragraph">The coast guard vessel then deployed an inflatable boat team that “forcibly recovered said floating object by cutting the tow line attached to the (Philippine) rubber boat,” it said in a statement.< /p>

Object “looks like” floating debris resembling Chinese rocket fairings recovered earlier this month from the island of Busuanga, north of Palawan, the military spokesperson, Maj. Cherryl Tindog.

The object, first seen by Filipinos 800 yards (732 meters) west of Thitu on the morning, he was then taken to the Chinese coast guard ship as the Philippine troops were returning to their station, Carlos said.

No Filipino soldiers were injured in the incident, it added.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

< p class="paragraph">The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said it was “aware of the incident and awaits detailed reports from maritime law enforcement agencies.”

< p class="paragraph">The reported incident occurred hours before the Vice President of the United States began a three-day visit.

Harris will meet with the President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr. today Monday and will visit the island of Palawan in the western Philippines, the closest major land mass to the Spratly , on Tuesday.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South Sea, a resource-rich seaway through which trillions of dollars in maritime trade pass each year.

(With information from AFP)