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China Doubles Down. Your Move, Mr. President?

China’s brinkmanship over the South China Sea looks like it will be kicked up a notch in the New Year, reports the Sydney Morning Herald:

From January 1, Hainan police will have the authority to board and seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the China Daily reported.

“Activities such as entering the island province’s waters without permission, damaging coastal defence facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal,” the English-language newspaper said.

“If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations, Hainan police have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems, under the revised regulations,” it added.

China seems to be doing everything in its power not to reach a compromise with the Philippines and Vietnam over this contentious issue. Calming the troubled waters of the South China Sea could prove to be the first big test for the U.S. pivot to Asia—a defining moment for the Obama administration’s second term on a signature foreign policy initiative.

But China isn’t going to make this easy to do.

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