Chinese sailors admit ramming Coast Guard ship

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Chinese sailors admit ramming Coast Guard ship

Three Chinese sailors being questioned about the capsizing of their fishing boat near Korea’s west coast admitted that the ship intentionally rammed a Korean patrol ship, according to the Korea Coast Guard yesterday.

“When the Korean patrol ship approached us, the captain first drove the boat toward China, but then he turned it around and hit the patrol ship,” one of the sailors told Korean investigators, according to officials of the Gunsan branch of the Korea Coast Guard.

The sailor was quoted as saying that the captain appeared to have turned his ship around to obstruct the patrol ship’s pursuit of another Chinese boat.

The two other Chinese sailors made the same statements, officials said. The testimony came after China demanded punishment for what it said was excessive use of force by the Korea Coast Guard in Saturday’s incident, which left the captain of the capsized Chinese boat dead and another sailor missing.

According to Coast Guard officials, the ship, the 63-ton Liaoyingyu 35403, overturned and sank 72 miles off Gunsan, North Jeolla, on Saturday, after ramming a 3,000-ton Korea Coast Guard patrol ship. The patrol ship was chasing another Chinese fishing boat, Liaoyingyu 35432, which it suspected was fishing illegally in Korea’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Whether the Liaoyingyu 35432 was illegally fishing in Korean territory has not been confirmed. Under the South Korea-China fishery agreement, fishermen of both countries can fish in each other’s EEZ with licenses from the other country issued in advance and as long as the fishermen stay within catch limits stated in the license.

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, “The fact that the Liaoyingyu 35432 did not obey the patrol ship’s order to stop for investigation, and the patrol ship declared a ‘hot pursuit’ within Korea’s EEZ, makes Korea’s law enforcement correct.”

Seoul says a “hot pursuit,” a right under international law, justifies the pursuit of a boat into international waters. The accident occurred in a joint fishing area, but the “hot pursuit” was declared when the Liaoyingyu 35432 was in Korea’s EEZ, the ministry said.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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