BEIJING (Reuters) - Three Chinese ships on Sunday patrolled the James Shoal, an area also claimed by Malaysia, and soldiers and officers on board swore to safeguard its sovereignty, in the latest sign of Beijing's territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The group was made up of an amphibious landing craft, the Changbaishan, and two destroyers, state news agency Xinhua said.
Beijing regards the James Shoal as the southernmost part of the country's territory.
Last March, Malaysia protested against the incursion of four Chinese ships in James Shoal, about 80 km (50 miles) off Sarawak on Borneo island. Chinese sailors fired guns in the air during the visit to the shoal. In April, a Chinese maritime surveillance ship returned to James Shoal to leave behind steel markers to assert its claim.
China upset the Philippines and the United States this month when rules went into force demanding fishing boats seek permission to enter waters under the jurisdiction of China's southern province of Hainan, an area the provincial government says covers much of the South China Sea.
Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also claim other parts of the South China Sea. China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.