The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) blocked a Philippine warship that trespassed into waters off China’s Huangyan Dao (Huangyan Island) on Monday, amid escalated provocations by the Philippines around Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea, observers said.

Without authorization from the Chinese government, a Philippine corvette on Monday illegally trespassed into waters off China’s Huangyan Island, Senior Colonel Tian Junli, a spokesperson for the PLA Southern Theater Command, said in a press release.

The PLA Southern Theater Command organized naval and air forces, tracked and monitored, verbally warned, and then blocked and restricted the Philippine warship in accordance with the law, Tian said.

The Philippine move seriously violated China’s sovereignty, seriously infringed on international law and the basic principles of international relations, and could have easily resulted in misunderstanding and misjudgment, Tian said, sternly calling on the Philippine side to immediately stop the provocation and avoid further escalation of the situation.

“The command troops are on high alert all the time so as to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea region,” the spokesperson said.

Since August, the Philippines has repeatedly provoked China over Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea, including around Ren’ai Reef, Huangyan Island and Zhongye Island.

In most of the cases, the Philippine side deployed government ships and coast guard ships, and China deployed coast guard ships in response, but this time the Philippines sent a naval warship, so China dispatched PLA forces on a reciprocal basis, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Monday.

The Philippine side’s deployment of a corvette is an escalated provocation, the expert said.

By escalating the tensions, the Philippines likely wants to draw support from the US, or the entire farce was staged by the US in the first place, analysts said.

The Philippines should realize that it is being used by the US, as the US will never fight for the national interests of the Philippines, experts said, warning that the Philippine provocations will eventually backfire.