China sends fleet to patrol South China Sea

Beijing: A fleet of Chinese marine surveillance ships departed from China's Sanya Port on Thursday to carry out regular patrol missions in the South China Sea, Xinhua reported.

Marine patrol ship "Haixun 31" sails out of the port of Sanya, south China's Hainan Province, Feb. 28, 2013. A formation of three marine patrol ships "Haixun 21", "Haixun 31" and "Haixun 166" started their coast guard mission in South China Sea on Thursday, a second one by the national Maritime Safety Administration at this water area in 2013. The first mission was conducted from Jan. 15, 2013 to Jan. 17, 2013. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
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According to the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, the fleet consists of patrol ships -- the Haixun 21, Haixun 31 and Haixun 166 left from Hainan province.

The missions are aimed at strengthening China's maritime law enforcement capacity and testing the patrol team's rapid response abilities in the South China Sea.

It will monitor maritime traffic safety, investigate maritime accidents, detect pollution, and carry out search and rescue work.

It is China's second patrol after two ships started a regular patrol mission in the South China Sea from Guangzhou on February 20.

On February 07, the Chinese government said daily patrols would be conducted in the South China Sea in 2014 to better safeguard the "legitimate interests" of domestic fishermen.

Over 400 fishing vessels are currently operating in the South China Sea.

Last year, surveillance ships carried out 58 patrol missions in the South China Sea over its territorial waters off the disputed Diaoyu Islands to secure the nation's maritime rights and interests.

The islands are called "Diaoyu" in China but "Senkaku" in Japan. The row over the islands, which are presently controlled by Japan, has left ties between Tokyo and Beijing highly tense.

Japan claims occupying the islands since 1895, while China maintains the islands were recognised as Chinese territory as early as 1783.