Maritime violence with no limitIt is shocking that an unauthorized Chinese fishing boat repeatedly rammed Korea Coast Guard’s 4.5-ton speed boat and sank it into the West Sea last Friday when the coast guard tried to clamp down on an armada of illegal Chinese fishing boats. They fled shortly after the incident. Even though this type of violent resistance by China’s illegal boats occurred often in the past, we cannot but regard the intentional collision as a serious maritime violence.
China must take responsibility for the unfathomable attack by its civilian vessels and for the sinking of our patrol boat, a government property.
More serious, however, is the severity of the violence. Chinese fishers went so far as to endanger the lives of the guards engaged in the legitimate execution of the law to safeguard our maritime sovereignty and economic interests. The Chinese fishers’ threat to attack another speed boat, which arrived at the scene to rescue the guards from drowning, constitutes a brazen criminal act. Such outrageous acts could take place any time in the West Sea just as it did when one of our special forces was killed during a clash.
The Korea Coast Guard called a relevant Chinese official from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul and urged Beijing to come up with effective ways to punish and prevent such violence in the future. The Coast Guard warned that it will resort to extreme countermeasures, including the use of force, after underscoring that Chinese fishers’ latest violence is equivalent to “attempted homicide.” We welcome the reaction. Our government cannot take a lenient approach to Chinese boats’ increasingly dangerous illegal fishing. As Chinese authorities notified us of the identity of the boat, they must immediately bring them to justice. That is a basic duty of a responsible government.
Nevertheless, illegal Chinese fishing boats will most likely challenge our legitimate exercise of maritime sovereignty. Our government must better arm our Coast Guard in order to substantially control the illegal fishing of Chinese boats.
At the same time, Seoul must make diplomatic efforts to put an end to the age-old bad practice by persuading Beijing on higher level diplomatic channels. Our government must augment efforts to exchange information on Chinese illegal fishing and launch a joint campaign to rein them in.
China must not turn its face away from the severity of the crime. Beijing must not forget that the image it has been trying to build in the 21st century can be suddenly tainted by illegal fishers.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 10, Page 30