Beijing: A flotilla of Chinese naval ships returned home on Friday after completing this year`s first open sea training exercises monitored closely by several foreign warships and planes amid Beijing`s maritime disputes with neighbours like Japan and the Philippines.
China`s People`s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships completed the 18-day open-sea training exercise in the West Pacific Ocean and returned to the northern port city of Qingdao, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The PLA fleet was followed by foreign aircraft and warships for much of the time, the report said without identify the foreign countries whose vessels monitored the exercises.
During the training exercise, the flotilla patrolled the disputed South China Sea and conducted a joint anti-submarine exercise, it said.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan contest China`s claims of sovereignty over entire South China Sea.
The exercises coincide with the deepening conflict between China and Japan over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, where the ships of the two countries jostled with each other in patrolling the waters of islands called Diaoyu by China and Senkakus by Japan.
The flotilla comprised of three ships carrying three helicopters. They are all from the North China Sea Fleet under the PLA Navy, the report said.
It sailed through the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the Miyako Strait, the Bashi Channel and the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan. The journey was more than 5,800 nautical miles and lasted for 408 hours, it said.
More than 700 naval officers and soldiers participated in the exercises, it added.