Court orders detention of 13 Chinese fishermen

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Court orders detention of 13 Chinese fishermen

The Gwangju District Court yesterday issued an arrest warrant with detention for 13 Chinese fishermen on charges of obstructing the execution of the Korean Coast Guard’s official duties and wounding four coast guard sailors.

The action is the latest development in a case that began on Oct. 7 in fishing grounds near the southwestern Korean island of Gageo, a frequent flashpoint for incidents involving Korean coastguardsmen protecting the nation’s exclusive economic zone in the West Sea and Chinese fishing vessels looking for profitable but illicit catches. The Coast Guard office in Mokpo said one of its patrol boats spotted two Chinese boats in the area; the fishermen allegedly used knives and metal pipes to prevent the Coast Guard from boarding one of the 120-ton fishing vessels for an inspection.

The court cited the severity of the incident and concerns that the suspects might flee in approving their detention. Fourteen Chinese fishermen had originally been charged, but one - identified as the boat’s chief engineer, - was freed when the Coast Guard said it had no evidence that he had been involved in the fracas.

Despite a series of warnings to stop their engines, the Chinese trawlers sailed off. After a two-hour chase, the Korean pursuers overtook and four of them boarded one of the vessels. The fishermen brandished knives and metal pipes to repel the boarders; one threw a 26-centimeter (10-inch) knife that injured a coastguardsman in the leg. The other three Koreans in the boarding party also suffered fractures and bruises.

Such clashes in the West have been a constant source of diplomatic friction between China and Korea. Since the conclusion of the Korea-China Fisheries Agreement in June 2001, more than 4,500 Chinese trawlers have been captured by Korea.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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