The destroyers Haikou and Wuhan, two of China's navy's most sophisticated warships, set sail from the southern resort island of Hainan along with a supply vessel, the official Xinhua news agency said. The three ships have about 800 crew, including 70 special operations troops, Xinhua said.
"We have made special preparations to deal with pirates, even though these waters are not familiar to us," it quoted mission commander Rear-Admiral Du Jingcheng as saying.
The crack forces are expected to give the fleet an edge in seeing off the pirates, with one of the soldiers able to "handle several enemies with (his) bare hands", Xinhua said.
"Our primary target is not striking them but dispelling them," Du said. "If the pirates make direct threats against the warships or the vessels we escort, the fleet will take counter measures."
Still, the presence of Chinese warships in foreign waters is sure to fan unease in some quarters overseas.
Beijing's opaque but quickening military build-up has contributed to a sense of unease in parts of Asia, especially Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own and has vowed to bring under mainland control, by force if necessary.
Last Mod: 26 Aralık 2008, 15:07