Chinese state media say the country will expand its offshore maritime patrol force within the next decade, as tensions increase between Beijing and its South China Sea neighbors over a set of islands said to hold vast reserves of natural resources.
The China Daily newspaper says the China Maritime Surveillance Forces will add 16 aircraft and 350 vessels by 2015, and boost its current 9,000-member personnel to 15,000 by 2020. The number of vessels will increase to 520 by 2020.
The surveillance force falls under State Oceanic Administration, which supervises China's coastline and territorial waters. The newspaper said the number of foreign intrusions into China's sea and air has increased in recent years, with intrusions from 1,303 foreign ships and 214 planes in 2010, compared to a combined 110 in 2007.
China is engaged in a tug of war between with the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, all of whom have made claims on the islands.
Beijing has sent one of its largest naval patrol ships, the Haixun 31, on a two-week trip across the South China Sea to Singapore for an unprecedented port call.