ASEAN head warns China plans to board ships in disputed sea area could 'escalate tensions'
ASEAN head Surin Pitsuwan has expressed concerns that China's plan to board ships in disputed areas of the South China Sea could escalate tensions in the region.
ASEAN's Secretary-General Pitsuwan said that Beijing's plan was "a very serious turn of events".
On Thursday China said that it granted its border patrol police the power to board and search ships in the area.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the region.
According to the BBC, state media said patrols in the southern island province of Hainan would be able to board foreign ships that stopped in its waters or violated other regulations.
The regulation allows police "to board, seize and expel foreign ships illegally entering the province's sea areas," the Global Times newspaper said on Wednesday.
These activities include "illegal landing" and "carrying out publicity campaigns that endanger China's national security", it added.
According to the report, China's announcement comes amid an ongoing row over a map on new Chinese passports show disputed areas in the South China Sea as Chinese territory.