Chinese navy ships were able to free a stranded vessel in disputed waters near the Philippines Sunday, avoiding a potential standoff between the two countries, which have both made conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

A Chinese naval frigate had run aground Wednesday, striking the Half Moon Shoal some 70 miles (110 kilometers) off the coast of the Philippines' western Palawan province.

A rescue team of at least six Chinese navy ships had responded to the scene, freeing the stranded vessel, which was able to sail home with minor damage to its hull.

Philippine coast guard search-and-rescue vessels had also been deployed to provide assistance, though Manila asked Beijing Saturday to explain why a Chinese ship had entered what it considered its territorial waters.

China and the Philippines have been involved in several confrontations over maritime claims in recent months.

Both countries have overlapping claims to the Spratly archipelago -- where the Half Moon Shoal lies -- in the South China Sea. The area is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits.