Thu, 19 Mar 2009 16:45:17 GMT | PressTV
The US has released this picture, claiming Chinese vessels were harassing its surveillance ships, the USNS Impeccable.
China sent a fisheries patrol ship to the South China Sea last week and said it could deploy other similar vessels.
The patrol operations come after a fresh claim on the chain of islands by the Philippines and a confrontation with a US navy ship patrolling the waters. Beijing has criticized both incidents as illegal.
The US claimed the incident took place in international waters after several days of increasingly aggressive acts by Chinese ships in the region.
On March 13, the US Navy dispatched a guided-missile destroyer to the China Sea after the tense naval standoff between two countries.
Chinese sources have said that the concerned US navy vessel had been consistently conducting illegal surveying in China's special economic zone.
Many have viewed China's stepped up patrols as a move to flex its increasing military muscles against the US -- which is critical of Beijing over a number of issues that include Tibet and human rights allegations.