March 6 (UPI) — China has plans to step up control of its territorial waters, a move that is likely to increase tensions in the East and South China Seas.
Xinhua reported Monday that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for the strengthening of maritime management during the annual National People’s Congress.
Li’s proposal includes plans to increase military manpower in “offshore locations” that could mean continued buildup of forces in the South China Sea, where Beijing has built artificial islands.
Taiwanese newspaper Want Daily reported Monday a Chinese Aegis ship, a destroyer and a supply ship were seen circling Taiwan in a counterclockwise direction.
China’s announcement supports a recent analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that indicates Beijing has built surface-to-air missile systems at three outposts in the disputed Spratly Islands.
China is also interested in maintaining territorial claims in the East China Sea, where it has been locked in a dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands.
Beijing claims the territory because the area has strategic value, as well as natural resources such as oil and natural gas.
Following China’s island-building activities, the U.S. Navy planned a freedom of navigation operation near disputed territory.
A source in Beijing told South Korean newspaper Hankuk Ilbo that more “provocations from the Chinese side” in the East and South China Seas can be expected, following the recent announcement.
China’s defense spending is expected to increase by 7 percent to $203.1 billion in 2017, according to Beijing’s finance ministry.