Chinese medical vessel docks in Venezuela

The humanitarian tour will provide medical help to the crisis-ridden country, but Venezuelan officials said it was also part of a "strategic defense operation." Pharmaceutical prices have soared as the currency tanks.

The Chinese army medical vessel "Peace Ark" arrived in Venezuela's La Guaira port on Saturday, as the country faces a deep economic crisis that has devastated its public health services.

It is the latest stop for the People's Liberation Army Navy's ship in its 11-nation "Mission Harmony" tour. The visit is taking place on the heels of the US announcing that it would also be sending a navy medical ship, the USS Comfort, to help Venezuelan refugees in Colombia, a move that Caracas has criticized.

Read more: Multilateral approach needed to contain Venezuela’s refugee crisis, experts warn

Top Venezuelan officials saw the Comfort's deployment as a threat and a sign that the US seeks a military intervention on humanitarian grounds

Though the stated goal of the Peace Ark is primarily humanitarian, Padrino said its visit to Venezuela was part of the government's "strategic defense operation."

"This is how you undertake diplomacy in the world," Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said in a welcome ceremony, "with concrete actions of cooperation and not stoking the false voices of those who beat the drum of war."