China sends largest fisheries ship to South China Sea
China's largest fisheries ship was expected to arrive at disputed islands in the South China Sea on Sunday to bolster the country's claims over the area, state media reported.
The Fishery Administration Ship No 311 left China's southern island of Hainan on Saturday and was scheduled to reach the Paracel islands, known in China as the Xisha, on Sunday, the Beijing News said.
The largest and fastest ship in China's fishery administration fleet was dispatched to patrol the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, the newspaper said.
The Paracel islands are claimed by Vietnam, while the area off Hainan was the site of a recent standoff between Chinese vessels and a US naval surveillance ship inside China's exclusive economic zone, Xinhua reports.
In an earlier report, the Global Times newspaper said the No. 311, which is a converted naval vessel weighing 4,450 tons with a top speed of 37 kilometres per hour, left the port of Guangzhou on Tuesday.
It quoted Wu Zhuang, the director of the fishery administration, as saying the ship was part of a planned expansion of patrols over the next five years in the South China Sea.
The ship will also patrol the disputed Spratly islands, known as Nansha in Chinese, the reports said.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday signed into law a bill defining the country's territorial boundaries and laying claim to areas including the Spratlys and the nearby Scarborough Shoal, or Huangyan islands.
China has protested the Philippine government's move and claimed "indisputable sovereignty" over the two island groups, part or all of which are also claimed by countries including Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
It also said a US naval surveillance ship had violated international maritime law by operating inside its exclusive waters earlier this month, a charge denied by the US government.