Protecting our waters

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Protecting our waters

A Chinese fisherman was killed in a clash with South Korean Coast Guards after he was caught fishing illegally in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea on Friday. When one of its peer ships was approached by the Korean Coast Guard, four Chinese vessels joined in to fight off Korean authorities. Over a hundred crew members attacked 10 officers with knives and beer bottles when they went onboard, and also choked them and tried to throw them off the ship. The officers followed the manual, firing three warning blanks before shooting eight shots toward the deck. The captain was hit by one of those shots and died.

The Coast Guard has the authority to protect Korean waters from illegal fishing. The officers had the right to protect themselves against violent attacks from Chinese fishermen who were resisting the enforcement of law. The government must explain the situation to Chinese authorities, including how and why the casualty took place at the hands of the Coast Guard.

Chinese authorities must discipline their fishermen against violating laws in foreign waters and other illegal activities. They must educate them that the use of physical force against foreign officials is a grave crime. Illegal activities and physical resistance to officers of the law could seriously damage the image of Chinese fishermen. Seoul and Beijing agreed to jointly patrol the waters between their territorial jurisdictions for a week starting Wednesday.

The two countries should discuss regularizing the patrols. Violations of Korean maritime rules by Chinese fishermen happen more than 200,000 times a year. But of those, just 467 of the violators were caught and 122 punished. The Coast Guard was less watchful over Korean fishing waters in recent months because it has been too preoccupied with the search for missing passengers from the Sewol ferry that sank in April. Korean authorities must continue diplomatic endeavors to rein in illegal fishing and reinforce resources for use in coastal patrols.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 13, Page 30

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