A Chinese navy hospital ship docked near Venezuela's capital on Saturday as the OPEC nation's deepening economic crisis garners the attention of the U.S. and other world powers.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino was on hand to greet the People's Liberation Army Navy's ship, the Peace Ark, on its latest stop as part of the 11-nation "Mission Harmony" tour announced in June.
Interest in the goodwill visit has been building since the Pentagon announced in August it was sending its own hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to neighboring Colombia to provide free medical treatment for thousands of Venezuelan migrants fleeing their homes amid widespread food and medicine shortages.
Padrino on Saturday said the Chinese boat's visit was part of the government's "strategic defense operation."
The Peace Ark's humanitarian tours around the world have become a sign of China's outreach efforts and Beijing's ambitions of gradually expanding its military influence abroad.