MANILA - A Chinese warship had "hostile intent" when it pointed a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in February, the military said Thursday.
The incident was the subject of diplomatic protests Manila sent Beijing on Wednesday.
On Feb. 17, Philippine vessel BRP Conrado Yap (PS39) was on its way to Rizal Reef Detachment in the West Philippine Sea when it detected "a radar contact of a gray colored vessel," according to the Armed Forces' Western Command, tasked to protect the country's sovereignty in the disputed sea.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
The Philippine ship identified the Chinese vessel as a small warship with bow number 514, equipped with a "gun control director" that can "track targets and makes all the main guns ready to fire in under a second."
"While PS39 does not have the electronic support measures to confirm that PLAN Gun Control Director was directed towards her, visual identification confirms this hostile intent," the WesCom said in a statement.
"This hostile act on the part of [the] Chinese government and encroachment within the Philippines’ EEZ is perceived as a clear violation of international law and Philippine sovereignty."
The WesCom said the Philippine ship issued a radio challenge to the vessel, which responded, "The Chinese government has imputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters."
"PS39 again challenged the vessel and then instructed to proceed directly to its next destination. That vessel repeated its response and maintained her course and speed," it added.
Both vessels continued their respective voyage after the incident, according to WesCom, which vowed to "never be intimidated nor let our guards down in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Philippines."
It added that it would "support any future capability upgrade of our ships patrolling our Philippine waters."
Beijing claims nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea and has rejected a UN-backed international tribunal ruling that favored the Philippines and invalidated China's sweeping claims in the disputed waters.
It has continued expansion in the South China Sea, recently establishing two administrative districts in the waters, even as the world was focused on responding to a pandemic of the coronavirus disease, which came from one of its cities.