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Chinese naval ships carry out drills in western Pacific

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BEIJING (PTI): Days after announcing empowering of Chinese border police to board foreign ships and seize them in the disputed waters of South China Sea, a fleet of the Chinese naval ships on Saturday carried out search and rescue drills in the western Pacific Ocean.

Four Navy warships, namely Hangzhou, Ningbo, Zhoushan and Maanshan as well as a ship-borne helicopter participated in the drills, separately in two sea areas, Fan Zaijun, deputy chief of staff of a destroyer, reported state-run Xinhua news on Saturday.

The drills were based on the scenario of some local law-enforcing vessels being confronted by foreign warships while carrying out their duties, resulting in two Chinese law-enforcers falling into the sea.

Upon receiving a simulated plea for help from civil law-enforcement vessels, the Chinese navy fleet rushed to the site for the rescue, the report said.

The helicopter was first sent to the area to search for the "victims" and then it guided the warships in rescue operations.

Two search and rescue drills were successfully carried out as both of the overboard law-enforcers were saved.

The drills followed announcement that border police in Hainan islands were empowered to board foreign vessels and seize them.

China subsequently clarified that the new move will not affect international navigation but did not elaborate on how the orders to the border police plays out in future.

The law on border police action would come into effect from Jan 1.

The move is resented by ASEAN countries like Philippines and Vietnam, which along with Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have disputes with China on the sovereignty over South China Sea in the Pacific Ocean.

China claims ownership to entire South China Sea.

The Chinese ships went out far from home to carry out their drills as the first air craft carrier is getting ready for long distance missions.

The drills proved quite difficult, said Fan, because of bad weather that caused three-meter-high tides in the areas, though their successful completion was helpful for the navy to improve its capabilities in non-combat tasks and for the local law-enforcers to improve their professional abilities.

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