Bloomberg News

S. Korea Says Coast Guard Officer Killed by Chinese Sailor

December 12, 2011

(Updates with comment from China’s foreign ministry in fifth paragraph.)

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea said a Coast Guard officer died today after being stabbed by a Chinese sailor during an operation to seize an illegal fishing boat in the Yellow Sea.

Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk Hwan summoned China’s ambassador to discuss the incident, a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy. The Chinese boat and its nine sailors were taken to Incheon, west of Seoul, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Chinese fishing crews have clashed multiple times in the past year with the coast guards and commercial vessels of nearby countries, including South Korea, Vietnam and Japan. The incidents and arrests of Chinese sailors have fueled tensions over claims to fishing grounds and undersea oil and gas.

“There are few effective ways for South Korea to prevent these kinds of incidents because China, with its huge diplomatic and economic power, often tries to stop other countries punishing offenders,” said Park Dall Hyun, professor from the maritime and fisheries department at Chonnam University in South Jeolla Province. “Seizing boats and crews isn’t enough to stop the illegal fishing.”

Violent Resistance

China is “ready to work” with South Korea following the incident and has “taken measures to educate fisherman in order to prohibit cross-border fishing,” ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters in Beijing. He called on South Korea to protect the “legitimate rights” of the nine Chinese taken into custody.

The crew resisted violently when their boat was boarded about 87 kilometers (54 miles) from South Korea’s Socheong Island, stabbing the officer who died and another one who was hospitalized, the Coast Guard said in its statement.

Japan’s Coast Guard last month arrested then released the captain of a Chinese fishing boat for refusing inspection in waters near southwestern Nagasaki prefecture. Japan arrested another Chinese boat captain 15 months ago and detained him for 17 days after a collision with two coast guard ships.

The 2010 incident prompted authorities in Beijing to cut off ministerial talks. China also detained employees of Japanese construction company Fujita Corp. and curbed exports of rare earth metals necessary for Japan’s automobile and high-tech industries.

In June, Vietnam said a Chinese vessel harassed a survey ship operated by Vietnam Oil & Gas Group in the South China Sea. A Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman called the incident “premeditated,” while China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that vessel got tangled with cables of the “illegally operating” oil-exploration vessel and was dragged for more than an hour before the fishermen cut themselves free.

--With assistance from Michael Forsythe in Beijing. Editors: Brett Miller, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: Seonjin Cha in Seoul at scha2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net


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