China admitted that it did send several ships to Quirino Atoll, also known as Jackson Atoll in the West Philippine Sea but only to remove an abandoned “foreign vessel” that had run aground on the shoal in late 2015.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, explained that the Chinese Coast Guard recieved reports about a foreign fishing vessel that runs aground and was abandoned near the Jackson atoll.

Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, of the military's Western Command, said three to five Chinese Coast Guard boats were previously sighted at the contested atoll.
Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, of the military’s Western Command, said three to five Chinese Coast Guard boats were previously sighted at the contested atoll.

“If the vessel was left aground for a long time, it might cause possible impediment to navigation safety and damage to the marine environment,” Hong explained.

“Therefore, China Rescue and Salvage of Ministry of Transport recently sent salvage ships to tug the grounded vessel out of the shallow water for proper disposal.”

Reuters reported that the stranded vessel was a Filipino ship.

He added that “the Chinese side advised fishing boats near the waters to stay away for navigation security and operation safety.”

He also noted that the Chinese vessels “returned after the operation”.

But for how long the ships stayed, was left unclear.

Hong ended by restating China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands in the West Philippine Sea including Jackson Atoll.

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