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Surveillance vessel out on patrol

CHINA'S largest ocean surveillance ship is on patrol in the South China Sea, reinforcing the country's sovereignty over the area, the Global Times newspaper reported.

The ship, China Yuzheng 311, sailed yesterday morning from Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, to patrol and protect Chinese fishing grounds around the Nansha and Xisha islands, the report said.

China Yuzheng 311 is a converted naval vessel and at 4,450 tons is the country's largest fisheries patrol ship. It can travel at 37 kilometers per hour.

Because some countries claim sovereignty of areas there, Chinese patrol ships have been challenged in the past by overseas vessels patrolling in the South China Sea. Some Chinese fishermen have been held illegally.

China has claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea for a long time and allows fishing and patrols there, said Liu Tianrong, an official with South China Sea fisheries administrative bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture.

The bureau plans to expand its patrol fleet to strengthen security over the next five years, Wu Zhuang, the bureau's director, said.

The bureau is building a new 2,500-ton patrol ship with a helicopter pad. The ship will go into service after it is launched in 2010.

In February and March, Philippines and Malaysia tried to claim sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, moves that drew strong protests from the Chinese government.


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