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Thursday, March 19, 2009

China to flex naval muscles in disputed seas

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 16:45:17 GMT | PressTV

The US has released this picture, claiming Chinese vessels were harassing its surveillance ships, the USNS Impeccable.
China has decided to step up naval patrols in the waters of the South China Sea, following a confrontation with a US naval ship.

Fisheries department director Wu Zhuang said the motive behind the decision is that illegal fishing has increased and "unfounded territorial claims" have been raised in seas China sees as its own, state media reported Thursday.

"Faced with a growing amount of illegal fishing and other countries' unfounded territorial claims... it has become necessary to step up the fishery administration's patrols to protect China's rights and interests," the China Daily quoted the official as saying.

China sent a fisheries patrol ship to the South China Sea last week and said it could deploy other similar vessels.

The patrol operations come after a fresh claim on the chain of islands by the Philippines and a confrontation with a US navy ship patrolling the waters. Beijing has criticized both incidents as illegal.

In early March, the Pentagon said five Chinese ships harassed and maneuvered dangerously close to the unarmed USNS Impeccable as the ocean surveillance vessel was some 75 miles south of the Chinese island of Hainan.

The US claimed the incident took place in international waters after several days of increasingly aggressive acts by Chinese ships in the region.

On March 13, the US Navy dispatched a guided-missile destroyer to the China Sea after the tense naval standoff between two countries.

The arrival of the destroyer underscored a determination in Washington to continue with the surveillance mission in spite of Beijing's assertion that the operation amounts to an illegal military activity.

Chinese sources have said that the concerned US navy vessel had been consistently conducting illegal surveying in China's special economic zone.

Many have viewed China's stepped up patrols as a move to flex its increasing military muscles against the US -- which is critical of Beijing over a number of issues that include Tibet and human rights allegations.

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