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China says relations with Philippines at 'crossroads' amid maritime incidents

MANILA — China warned the Philippines on Monday (March 25) to behave cautiously and seek dialogue, saying their relations were at a "crossroads" as new confrontations between their coastguards over maritime claims deepened tensions.

It was the second such warning by the Chinese foreign ministry in three months as the two countries openly sparred over territorial claims in the Spratly Islands, a mostly uninhabited archipelago in the South China Sea.

The message was delivered by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong during a phone call with Philippine counterpart Theresa Lazaro amid worsening friction over altercations at the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.

In the call, Lazaro relayed Manila's "strongest protest against the aggressive actions" by the China Coast Guard and maritime militia against a Philippines' resupply mission in the South China Sea, her ministry said in a statement.

Chen said in a statement: "China once again urges the Philippines to honour its commitments and consensus, stop its maritime abuses and provocations, stop any unilateral actions that may complicate the situation, and earnestly return to the right track of properly handling differences through dialogue and consultation with China."

The Philippines accused China's coastguard of using water cannon against a civilian boat supplying troops on Saturday at the Second Thomas Shoal, which it said had damaged the boat and injured some crew.

It was the latest in a series of flare-ups in the past year.

The Philippines foreign ministry summoned China's charge d'affaires in Manila on Monday to protest at "aggressive actions" in the wake of the incident.

"China's continued interference with the Philippines' routine and lawful activities in