[EDITORIALS]Beef up maritime patrols

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[EDITORIALS]Beef up maritime patrols

Several marine police officers were stabbed recently when they accosted the crew of two Chinese ships that had intruded and were fishing illegally in Korea's exclusive economic zone in the Yellow Sea. Both the Chinese ships escaped. This incident shows how feeble we are as guardians of our sea rights. Such incidents must not happen again, and we must press China strongly for an apology and a promise that the ships' crews will be punished.

The incident occurred when our marine police boarded one of the two Chinese ships that were found to be fishing illegally. The police officers had immobilized the crew, but the crew of the other ship, armed with knives and hand-axes, joined their comrades to fight with the officers. Six marine police were injured, some seriously. The police fired 10 blanks from their rifles but could not bring the crews under control. They were forced to jump from the ship, which then fled in the direction of China.

It was the police's duty to capture these Chinese fishermen, who were no different from pirates. They must review whether the officers' actions were too passive in the face of an armed group of men. If they were reluctant to engage in a fight with the crew for fear of diplomatic troubles with China, they made a serious misjudgment. Diplomacy and piracy are two wholly unrelated matters.

Several cases of Chinese ships intruding in Korean waters have happened since the fisheries agreement between Korea and China last June expanded sixfold the Korean fisheries zone. Chinese ships frequently cause trouble by fishing illegally and stealing our ships' fishing equipment. Last year, there were 174 cases of unwelcome Chinese ships in Korean fishing waters; 83 more have been reported this year and 27 persons have been detained.

Our marine force is still weak. Only 12 out of the 245 vessels owned by the marine police are bigger than 1,000 metric tons and capable of handling rough waves and heavy weather. There are also only nine helicopters in the entire force. Looking at the preparedness of our neighbors, China and Japan, the marine police's request for more equipment and personnel should be granted if our seas are to be protected effectively.
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