Chinese naval vessels began drills Monday in the South China Sea, an area of territorial dispute, the Associated Press reports.
Two destroyers and China's largest amphibious landing craft started the exercises after sailing from the naval base on the southern island province of Hainan, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The ships also boast three helicopters and a company of marines.
Xinhua quoted Commander Jiang Weilie as saying the drills would focus on integrated combat missions involving ships, submarines and aircraft, suggesting other units may also be involved.
China has moved sharply to assert its claim to nearly the entire South China Sea and its island groups, frequently dispatching patrol vessels to challenge foreign ships and demanding that other nations obtain its permission to fish in the area. The Philippines,Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim the entire sea or parts of it.