Naval units from China and seven other Asian nations are taking part this week in maritime exercises off the eastern port city of Qingdao, Chinese official news agency Xinhua said.

The drills include 19 vessels and seven helicopters from the navies of China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Brunei.

With a focus on joint search-and-rescue operations, the exercises mark the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy.

The drills coincide with the biennial conference of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao, but "are not held under the framework of the WPNS," Xinhua said, citing a Chinese navy spokesman.

The conference brings together more than 140 delegates from the 24 WPNS members and observers and takes place against the backdrop of ongoing maritime territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors.

The agenda for the gathering includes a discussion of a multilateral code of conduct for naval forces in the region.

The WPNS comprises 21 members: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, United States and Vietnam; and three observers: Bangladesh, India and Mexico. EFE