BEIJING – China’s coast guard said it had on humanitarian grounds “allowed” the Philippines to evacuate a person who had fallen ill on a rusting warship beached on the Second Thomas Shoal located in waters claimed by both countries.

The Chinese Coast Guard said in a statement late on Tuesday that it monitored and verified the entire operation on Sunday, which its spokesperson said was at the request from relevant parties in the Philippines.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its counterpart’s statement. The spokesperson for the National Security Council said it has no comment for now.

The PCG, however, said on Tuesday its sailors along with the military “successfully carried out” the medical evacuation “despite numerous obstructing and delaying maneuvers” by China’s coast guard.

A month ago, the PCG accused its Chinese counterpart of blocking a medical evacuation from the warship, calling the actions “barbaric and inhumane”.

China’s foreign ministry said the same day that China will allow the Philippines to deliver supplies and evacuate personnel if Manila notifies Beijing ahead of a mission.

The Philippines has soldiers living aboard a rusty, aging warship on the Second Thomas Shoal, which was deliberately grounded by Manila in 1999 to reinforce its maritime claims.

China’s navy has clashed several times with Philippines forces seeking to resupply the grounded ship.

China claims most of the South China Sea, a key conduit for $3 trillion of annual ship-borne trade, as its own territory. Beijing rejects the 2016 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which said its expansive maritime claims had no legal basis. – Reuters