China says it has dispatched a ship to the disputed South China Sea, in an apparent effort to reinforce its claim to the waters.
The official Xinhua News Agency says patrol vessel Haixun 21, equipped with a helipad, departed the southern city of Haikou for the South China Sea on Thursday.
China believes most of the South China Sea is its own, overlapping with claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan in parts of the gas- and oil-rich region.
The Philippines says it objects to Chinese patrols of Philippine maritime territory.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said Friday that his country has called on China to respect the Philippines' territorial sovereignty.