BEIJING - China said on Monday that it was unaware of water cannon use by a Chinese coastguard ship on Filipino fishermen.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista on Monday said a Chinese vessel on January 27 used water cannon to drive Filipino fishermen out of disputed waters in the South China Sea.
China has since the beginning of the year required foreign fishing boats to get approval before entering waters that China claims as its own.
"I don't know anything about the specific situation that you just mentioned, but I want to emphasize that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and their surrounding maritime territory. The relevant Chinese maritime forces are also carrying out normal official patrols in that area," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea's 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) waters. The sea provides 10 percent of the global fish catch, carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade a year and is believed to be rich in energy.
Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.
The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea but China is refusing to participate in the case.