BEIJING, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- China, in its "effort to protect the South China Sea," said police in Hainan Island province will be authorized to search ships illegally entering its waters.
Effective Jan. 1, Hainan police would be authorized to board and search ships that illegally enter the province's waters as part of the latest "Chinese effort to protect the South China Sea," China Daily reported.
China's aggressive territorial claims to much of the sea combined with its growing military might have raised concerns among a number of other nations in the region that also have overlapping sea claims.
It was on Hainan that the Chinese military last July set up a garrison in the newly created Sansha City.
The China Daily said under a set of regulation revisions approved earlier this week by the Hainan People's Congress, provincial border police would also be authorized to board or seize foreign ships that illegally enter the province's waters and order them to change course or stop sailing.
The report said illegal activities would include entering the island province's waters without permission, damaging coastal defense facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security.
"It is urgent for China to improve its legal system regarding offshore law enforcement because disputes with other countries are on the rise in the South China Sea," Zhuang Guotu, director of the Southeast Asian Center at Xiamen University, told China Daily. "Police have clear processes laid out in the new regulations for appraising illegal activities and punishing illegal entry."
China Daily said the revisions also said border police should strengthen the patrolling of the waters of Sansha.
The report quoted a source in China Marine Surveillance as saying new ships would soon join the South China Sea patrol fleet.
Such moves show China is preparing to deal with complicated marine disputes, said Qi Jianguo, former Chinese ambassador to Vietnam.