Chinese officials will board, seize ships in disputed waters
Beginning January 1, Chinese police will board and seize control of foreign ships which enter waters that are the center of a territorial dispute between multiple Asian nations.
Police in the southern Chinese island province of¬†Hainan¬†will board and search ships which enter into what¬†China¬†considers its territorial waters in the disputed¬†South China¬†Sea, state media said on Thursday, a move which could raise tensions further.
New rules, which come into effect on January 1, will allow¬†Hainan police¬†to board and seize control of foreign ships which "illegally enter" Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the official¬†China Daily¬†reported.
"Activities such as entering the island province's waters without permission, damaging coastal defence facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal," the English-language newspaper said.
"If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations,¬†Hainan police¬†have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems, under the revised regulations," it added.
China's assertion of sovereignty over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland¬†Southeast Asia¬†has set it directly against¬†Vietnam¬†and the¬†Philippines, while¬†Brunei,¬†Taiwan¬†and¬†Malaysia¬†also lay claim to parts.
Hainan, which likes to style itself as¬†China's answer to¬†Hawaii¬†or¬†Bali¬†with its resorts and beaches, is the province responsible for administering the country's extensive claims to the myriad islets and atolls in the¬†South China¬†Sea.
The newspaper said that the government will also send new maritime surveillance ships to join the fleet responsible for patrolling the¬†South China¬†Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas and straddling shipping lanes between¬†East Asia¬†and¬†Europe¬†and the¬†Middle East.
The stakes have risen in the area as the U.S. military shifts its attention and resources back to¬†Asia, emboldening its long-time ally the¬†Philippines¬†and former foe¬†Vietnam¬†to take a tougher stance against¬†Beijing.