China has had an unusually busy and bizarre week. On Monday - as the saga over the alleged spy balloon
dragged into its 11th day - a fresh spat erupted between Beijing and Manila. This one was over lasers. The Philippines accused China of using a "military grade" laser light on a Philippine coastguard boat. It said the incident had happened on 6 February when the boat was attempting to take supplies to the Sierra Madre, a vessel that is used as a Filipino naval outpost in the South China Sea; and that a Chinese vessel intercepted the Filipino coast guard boat, blocked its way and used a laser device to temporarily blind the crew.
It's not clear what sort of device the Chinese crew used or how powerful it was, but laser weapons designed to damage eyesight are banned under UN convention. The incident has been quickly condemned by a host of countries including the United States, Australia, Japan and Germany.
China for its part defended its right to use lasers to protect its "sovereignty", and then denied shining the light at the Filipino crew, saying they had used a "hand-held laser speed detector and hand-held greenlight pointer", neither of which are dangerous.