China navy patrol ship runs aground in shoal off Palawan Island Philippines

A Chinese naval frigate has run aground while patrolling disputed waters in the South China Sea, the defense ministry said Friday, amid tensions with the Philippines over territorial claims.

The ship was on "routine patrol" when it became stranded near Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands on  July 11, 2012 Wednesday evening, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

The shoal is off the Philippine island of Palawan.

No one was injured or killed in the accident and the navy was now organizing a rescue, the statement said, but gave no further details.

The Philippines said it was trying to confirm the reports and would offer assistance to any vessel in distress.

"We have to find out why that ship was there, why it ran aground, whether it was an accident or whatever," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gamin told reporters.

"If we have to offer assistance to help them get out of that place, we will assist them," he added.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Friday quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying the frigate, which has been discouraging fishing boats from the Philippines from entering the area, was "thoroughly stuck".

China says it has sovereign rights to all the South China Sea, believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, including areas close to the coastlines of other countries and hundreds of kilometers (miles) from its own landmass.

But Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines also claim parts of the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea).

The Spratlys are one of the biggest island chains in the area.

The rival claims have long made the South China Sea one of Asia's potential military flashpoints, and tensions have escalated over the past year.

The Philippines and Vietnam have complained China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its actions in the area, such as harassing fishermen, and also through bullying diplomatic tactics.

AFP

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