A big fleet of Chinese fishing vessels has arrived at the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea amid tensions with neighbors over claims.
 
Thirty vessels arrived near Yongshu Reef – claimed by Vietnam and an area that saw a naval battle in 1988 and skirmishes since – after leaving Hainan on Thursday.

Chinese boats regularly travel around the Spratlys and other South China Sea island and reefs. But the fleet is the largest sent to Yongshu from Hainan.

It includes a 3,000-tonne supply ship, and Xinhua News Agency reports a patrol vessel is also along to provide protection. The fleet is expected to spend up to 10 days near Yongshu, on which China maintains an observatory.

The fleet’s arrival came after China on Sunday refloated a frigate that was stuck for four days on a shoal near the western Philippine island of Palawan.

But Manila did not lodge a protest, saying the stranding in its exclusive economic zone was a mishap.

China claims all of the South China Sea. That includes areas close to other nations but far from the mainland.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei along with Taiwan also claim parts of the sea.

Manila and Hanoi complain that China is now more aggressive, harassing fishermen and using bullying diplomacy.

The latest example was seen at annual Southeast Asian talks last week.

Manila wanted other Association of Southeast Asian Nations to produce a communique about Scarborough Shoal, near the Philippines. But Chinese ally and talks host Cambodia blocked it.
 

 
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