Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Chinese central government will allow the police in the southern province of Hainan to board and control foreign ships that enter into what Beijing (one-sidedly) now regards as its own territorial waters. The reference is to the disputed areas in the South China Sea, which China is trying to snatch from the governments of Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The new law will go into effect January 1. According to the China Daily - a government newspaper - the rules will allow the coast guard of the province (consisting of a group of islands) to "board and make an inspection of those foreign ships illegally entering Chinese waters. Entering those waters without permission, damaging coastal defensive positions and threatening national security are illegal acts."
The decision comes just days after the new, contested national passports. In total silence by the media and the government, the Communist regime has in fact made a new document for travel abroad: the passport map includes territorial portions that follow the so-called "cow's tongue" which annexes - unilaterally by the Beijing authorities - the Spratly Islands, as well as the island of Taiwan and part of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and portions of the Himalayan region.
Beijing says that the map "is not aimed at any nation in particular" and is trying to tone down the controversy, which is increasingly taking on the scope of an international diplomatic row. The Indian government has already branded the initiative as "unacceptable"; in response, the customs officials in New Delhi grant entry into the Indian territory by stamping onto passports a "local version" of the map, which also includes areas at the center of contention.
Taiwan, too, is not hiding its fears because, as Taipei explains, affixing a visa to the passport implies the tacit acceptance of the map imprinted there. The two governments have officially protested through diplomatic channels. Manila has joined them; yesterday it said that it "had no intention of stamping" the new passports: "If we did," said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, "it would be as if we accepted the Chinese territorial claims."
Military tensions are being added to the diplomatic ones. Yesterday, the Chinese naval fleet stationed in the eastern part of the country crossed the waters of the Strait of Miyako - in Japan - to reach some Russian ships engaged in military exercises in the Pacific. Although Beijing had announced the beginning of the exercises, they are seen as an attempt to intimidate its neighbours.