Starting January 1 police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board ships which enter what China considers its territory in the South China Sea, Ben Blanchard and Manuel Mogato of Reuters report.
“Activities such as entering the island province’s waters without permission … and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal,” the China Daily said. “If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations, Hainan police have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems.”
The aggressive move raises the stakes in Asia’s biggest trouble spot, which includes some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes through which more than half the globe’s oil tanker traffic passes.
“That cannot be,” Marine Lt.-Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of Filipino military forces in the contested area, told Reuters. “That’s a violation of the international passage (rights).”
Several Asian countries claim sovereignty over small islands in the area that are significant as strategic territorial waters and potentially exclusive economic zones rich in natural resources and fish.