BEIJING, March 16 (UPI) -- China says it has dispatched an "administrative" ship to the South China Sea where five of its vessels clashed recently with a U.S. Navy ship.
The Yuzheng 311, a retired navy rescue vessel, reached the Xisha Islands Sunday and will patrol the waters to safeguard China's maritime rights, said Liu Tianrong, a spokesman for China's Administration for Fishing Affairs.
Chinese officials said they were exercising moderation by sending an administrative ship rather than warships, the China Daily reported Monday.
While the United States said five Chinese ships harassed a U.S. Navy ship March 8 in international waters, the Navy ship actually was inside China's exclusive economic zone and, therefore, had violated international and Chinese laws, The China Post reported Monday.
The Philippines, meanwhile, is urging China and other countries to adhere to a 2002 declaration on disputed territory in the South China Sea, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Monday.
The region is believed to have large oil and natural gas reserves that straddle sea lanes and rich fishing grounds. Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan all claim rights to parts of the territory.