Chinese boats hit, sink Coast Guard vessel

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Chinese boats hit, sink Coast Guard vessel

The Chinese Consul General was summoned on Sunday by the Korean government after Chinese fishing boats sank a Korea Coast Guard vessel on Friday southwest of Socheong Island, Incheon.

The Chinese consul general to Korea met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday by request of the ministry, during which time the ministry called upon the Chinese government to actively prevent its recurrence.

No casualties were reported, while the Chinese fishermen who reportedly rammed their boats into the Korea Coast Guard vessel fled the scene and are currently being sought by officials.

According to the Korea Coast Guard, it was inspecting some 40 Chinese fishing boats in the sea some 76 kilometers (47 miles) southwest of Socheong Island on Friday afternoon, when a 100-ton Chinese fishing boat rammed into the rear of the Coast Guard vessel.

A second boat then rammed into the Coast Guard vessel, which the Coast Guard sees as a deliberate attempt to sink the vessel.

At the time, eight Coast Guard officials were on board a Chinese boat in order to arrest the fishermen for fishing illegally in Korean waters without a permit.

The fishermen had reportedly locked the Coast Guard officials out of the steering house and the eight officials were trying to unlock it. The head of the Coast Guard team, who was on the vessel before it sank, reportedly jumped off the vessel after the first Chinese boat rammed into it.

Two nearby Coast Guard vessels, one a 3,000-ton ship, came to the rescue but the Coast Guard team said that during this time a dozen or so Chinese vessels armed with spears closed in on the Coast Guard vessels.

As an act of self defense, the Coast Guard shot at the Chinese vessels with a K1 rifle and a grenade launcher, among other weapons, at which point the Chinese boats turned and left.

According to the Korea Coast Guard, no Chinese fisherman was injured in the incident, and all Coast Guard officials were rescued.

“The Korea Coast Guard will immediately seek the arrest of the Chinese vessels that, we suspect, deliberately sank the Coast Guard vessel,” said Lee Joo-sung, head of the Korea Coast Guard branch office in Incheon. “And we will seek stronger measures from the Chinese government to curb illegal fishing by their citizens in Korean waters.”

“We regret that such an incident took place,” said Zhu Jizhong, the Chinese deputy consul general to Korea, “while the Chinese government is doing all it can.”

Clashes between Chinese fishermen and the Korea Coast Guard have been frequently reported lately.

On Sept. 29, a Chinese fishing boat caught fire west of South Jeolla, killing three Chinese fishermen. The fire reportedly started after Korea Coast Guard threw flash grenades onto the boat when the fishermen refused to stop the boat for inspection after fishing in Korean waters.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, roughly 200 to 300 Chinese vessels cross domestic borders in the Yellow Sea during crab season.

BY KIM MIN-WOOK, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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