China says vessels sent to disputed South China Sea waters to tow ship

China has sent vessels to a disputed atoll in the South China Sea to tow a grounded ship.
China has sent vessels to a disputed atoll in the South China Sea to tow a grounded ship. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China said on Wednesday (March 2) it had sent vessels to a disputed atoll in the South China Sea to tow a grounded ship and that these vessels have since left the waters.

Earlier, Philippine officials said China had stationed several ships near the Jackson Atoll, preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing traditional fishing grounds and raising tensions in the volatile region.

China had deployed up to seven ships to Quirino Atoll, also known as Jackson Atoll, said Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, the mayor of nearby Pagasa Island in the Spratly Islands.

The Spratlys are the most contested archipelago in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region and critical shipping lane linking North Asia to Europe, South Asia and the Middle East.