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Provocation is denied in ship's mission

CHINA yesterday denied it was "flexing military might" by sending a fishery administration vessel to the South China Sea, saying the ship was on a "routine mission" in the country's territorial waters.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands of the South China Sea and their adjacent waters," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press briefing.

His comments came after he was asked to respond to accusations that China was "flexing military might" by sending the ship to the South China Sea. "The vessel was heading there for a routine fishery administration mission," Qin said.

The ship, the China Yuzheng 311, will be used mainly to patrol the waters of China's exclusive economic zones, including the Nansha, Xisha and Zhongsha islands, said Wu Zhuang, director of the Administration of Fishery and Fishing Harbor Supervision for the South China Sea.

"The Chinese government has all along attached great importance to the fishery administration of the South China Sea," Qin said.

The vessel arrived at the Xisha Islands around noon yesterday after a week-long voyage from its home port in Guangzhou.

The ship is operated by the Agriculture Ministry's South China Sea Fishery Administration Bureau and is the largest of its kind with a maximum displacement of 4,450 tons.

It will patrol the Xisha Islands to give Chinese fishermen in the area more powerful protection for their interests and safety, said Liu Guimao of the fishery administration.

"The 311 crew was in good spirits and confident with their tasks," Liu said.

Wu said the vessel will escort Chinese ships around the islands where "fishing illegalities by neighboring countries are on the rise."

Equipped with an advanced communication system initiated by the International Maritime Organization, the China Yuzheng 311 can travel non-stop for 8,000 sea miles at a maximum speed of 22 knots.

It was converted from a rescue vessel of the Chinese Navy.


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