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Chinese fishermen admit to violating S. Korea’s EEZ

Posted December. 23, 2010 10:30,   


China is seeking to hold South Korea responsible for the sinking of a Chinese fishing boat in the Yellow Sea, but the Chinese fishermen caught by the (South) Korea Coast Guard have admitted to trespassing.

The boat sank Saturday reportedly after ramming into a Korea Coast Guard patrol boat while illegally fishing in Korea`s exclusive economic zone in the Yellow Sea.

Investigating the sinking of Liaoingwi, the Gunsan headquarters of the Korea Coast Guard said Wednesday that it secured testimony from the Chinese fishermen. One of the fishermen was quoted as saying by the ministry, “When the Coast Guard chased us while we were fishing within Korea’s EEZ, we accidently rammed into the patrol boat to obstruct their chase.”

Beijing had denied that the Chinese fishermen illegally fished in Korean waters and instead sought to blame Korea for the incident.

According to the Gunsan headquarters, the 3,000-ton class 3010 patrol boat around 12:05 pm Saturday spotted some 50 Chinese fishing boats illegally fishing as a fleet in waters some 68 miles southwest of Eocheong Island in the township of Okdo in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province.

The fishing boats were discovered while fishing 2.3 miles (4.3 kilometers) inside South Korean waters. The patrol vessel sent two speedboats and chased two of the closest Chinese fishing boats, but the Chinese fishermen brandished iron pipes and bats randomly in attempting to run away.

When maritime police chased the fishing boats some 72 miles (133 kilometers) northwest of Eocheong at 11:52 pm, the Liaoningwi abruptly rammed onto the 3010’s bow and sank. This area was neutral waters 1.2 miles (2.2 kilometers) away from South Korean waters.

In the probe conducted by the Gunsan headquarters, the Chinese fishermen reportedly told officials that to help the other fishing boats that were about to be caught, they accidently rammed into the patrol boat.

The Liaoningwi crew will be charged without detention with obstruction of justice and violation of the EEZ Act. A Coast Guard source said, “Because two Chinese fishing boats were illegally fishing in Korea`s EEZ, we had the right to go after them to neutral waters and catch them under international maritime law.”

In Seoul, the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said, “The sinking of the Chinese fishing boat is merely an accident related to a fisheries treaty,” adding, “To resolve the incident in an accurate fashion, we called in officials from the Korea Coast Guard to the ministry’s headquarters this morning and reviewed video footage of the incident several times.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin said Monday that he agreed to cooperate to prevent the incident from escalating in talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue.

kchwang@donga.com spear@donga.com