China sends surveillance ships in South China Sea
Beijing, Feb 21 : A fleet of Chinese marine surveillance ships departed Monday to carry out regular patrol missions in the South China Sea, the country's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said Wednesday.
The fleet, consisting patrol ships -- Haijian 84 and Haijian 72, left from Guangdong province, Xinhua quoted an official statement as saying, while adding the regular patrols were meant to safeguard the country's marine interests.
"Haijian" is the Chinese equivalent of "marine surveillance".
On Feb 7, 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.
More than 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.