China police plan to board vessels in disputed waters

November 30, 2012 - 5:02:27 am

BEIJING: 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 yesterday, a move which could raise tensions further.

The South China Sea is Asia’s biggest potential military trouble spot with several Asian countries claiming sovereignty.

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.

China occasionally detains fishermen, who it accuses of operating illegally in Chinese waters.

Reuters

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