In another instance of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, PLA Navy assault boats ‘armed with cruise missiles’ reportedly chased away a Filipino ABS-CBN news crew in the West Philippine Sea. Recently, 220 Chinese vessels swarmed the Philippine waters.
The latest incident comes to light after multiple reports of intimidation by what is being termed as Chinese ‘maritime militia’. “We were on our way to Ayungin Shoal when a white Chinese Coast Guard ship headed toward us.
It moved closer and closer, and we could see that through our lens. After that, it sent a radio communication and in English asked who we were and what we were doing in the area,” the news crew told a local portal Rappler.
“After that, two smaller but faster ships chased us. And when we checked, Kabayan, we saw that the ships were Type 022 Houbei fast attack craft with two mounted missiles.”
The crew was going to the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed area occupied by the Philippine military since 1999. The Philippine navy maintains a presence of less than a dozen personnel on the 100 m (330 ft) long Second World War US-built landing craft BRP Sierre Madre (LT-57), which was deliberately run aground at the shoal in 1999 in response to the Chinese reclamation of Mischief Reef.
This was done in order to maintain the Philippines’ territorial claim in the area.
Notably, these fast-attack vessels were the same ones that were seen on the Panganiban Reef on April 1.
THREAD: following reports of PLA Navy Type-022 Houbei catamaran missile fast attack craft harassing a motorboat chartered by ABS-CBN journalists in the Spratlys, Beijing's pretense about just using "white hulls" to promote SCS peace and stability is well over. Context is impt. pic.twitter.com/F8bwN7Fmr0
— Collin Koh (@CollinSLKoh) April 9, 2021
The Type 22 Houbei Class Missile Boat
Built over a catamaran design, the Type 22 Houbei Class stealth missile boats provide the Chinese PLA Navy with a low observable missile launch platform against enemy vessels along with air defense capability. These boats carry the YJ-83 subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles and a licensed copy of the AK-603 6-barrel 30mm Gatling gun.
The Chinese government has produced more than 80 such missile boats over a span of just seven years as part of the PLA Navy’s modernization plan. While these were considered predominantly coastal defense vessels, the recent accounts of their usage in military deployments in the South China Sea along with amphibious warfare ships has made analysts re-think its use as an attack craft by the service.
The boats are also proving an effective and relatively lower-cost option to harass hostile and civilian vessels in the South China Sea for Beijing.