Chinese naval fleet patrols Diaoyu Islands

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A flotilla of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrolled waters near the Diaoyu Islands on Monday after returning from a training exercise in the west Pacific.

The patrol marked the first time for China to confirm its naval operations in the waters near the Diaoyu Islands on the very day when the Navy warships conducted such patrol.

The flotilla, consisting of the DDG-136 Hangzhou and DDG-139 Ningbo destroyers, as well as the two frigates FFG-525 Ma'anshan and FFG-529 Zhoushan from the Navy's Donghai Fleet, passed through the Miyako Strait and entered the West Pacific for a routine training exercise on Nov. 28.

After finishing a series of training operations, the flotilla sailed through a strait near the Yonaguni and Iriomote Islands and arrived in waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands Monday morning.

According to a Xinhua reporter aboard the frigate Zhoushan, the four warships patrolled the waters in formation under rough sea conditions and weather.

Qiu Yanpeng, commander of the task force and also the Donghai Fleet's vice commander, said the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets have been part of China's inherent territory since ancient times.

It is legitimate for China's Navy to patrol in waters under Chinese jurisdiction and it is the Navy's responsibility to safeguard the country's maritime territory and interests, Qiu said.

Monday's patrol in the waters near Diaoyu Islands was the third of its kind conducted since Japan stirred up tensions with China over the islands earlier this year.

Sources with the Ministry of National Defense said a seven-warship task force from the Navy's Beihai Fleet patrolled the waters near the Diaoyu Islands on Oct. 16.

In late September, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun confirmed that Chinese naval ships carried out patrols and military training in the waters earlier that month.

A statement issued by the ministry on Monday said that China will continue naval training in the West Pacific.

The training exercise in the West Pacific was a routine exercise conducted in accordance with the Navy's annual training plan and concerned countries should respect the Chinese Navy's freedom of navigation and aviation in line with international law, it said.

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