China has acknowledged its fishing vessel hit a Filipino boat in the disputed South China Sea in an incident that prompted an outcry in the Philippines but denies the collision was intentional.

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest after Filipino fishermen said a Chinese vessel rammed their anchored boat on Sunday night then abandoned them as the boat sank in the Reed Bank. Philippine officials strongly condemned the reported Chinese action.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila said late Friday that the Chinese vessel accidentally hit the Filipino boat as it tried to maneuver while being “besieged” by several Filipino boats. It said the Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipinos but was afraid of being besieged by other boats.

“There is no such thing as ‘hit-and-run,'” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement, citing the result of a preliminary investigation.

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