Chinese police plan to board vessels in disputed seas
By Ben Blanchard and Manuel Mogato
BEIJING/MANILA (Reuters) - Police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board and search ships which illegally enter what China considers its territory in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Thursday, a move likely to add to tensions.
The South China Sea is Asia's biggest potential military trouble spot with several Asian countries claiming sovereignty over waters believed to be rich in oil and gas.
The shortest route between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it has some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. More than half the globe's oil tanker traffic passes through it.
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 defense 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.
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 Philippines, which also has claims to parts of the South China Sea, said the move could violate international maritime laws allowing the right of passage and accused Beijing of trying to escalate tension in the area. Continued...