On October 7, a Korean Coast Guard boat was out on patrol looking for fishing vessels operating illegally in Korean territory. But when they found and tried to arrest an offending Chinese ship, they were completely unprepared for the consequences.
The Chinese vessel was a steel juggernaut weighing in excess of 100 tonnes, while the Coast Guard boat weighed in at 4.5 tonnes. The smaller boat stood no chance of survival, as the fishing vessel careered into it before fleeing the scene.
Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but the 50-year-old marine officer manning the Coast Guard boat was forced to abandon his sinking ship by jumping into the water and had to be rescued by another nearby patrol boat.
The Korean Foreign Ministry has lodged a formal complaint with Beijing’s Consul General as this is not an isolated incident—violations of Korean fishing territories have repeatedly dogged relations between the two countries in recent years.
China responded yesterday by saying that Korea needs to stay "reasonable and cool-headed.”
The Korean Ministry is taking the incident very seriously, but with the vessel no doubt by now back in Chinese waters, it is unlikely that they will be able to hold the fishermen to account or prevent future incursions without the cooperation of Chinese agencies.
The head of the Korean Coast Guard’s Central Region denounced the actions of the fishermen as “attempted murder” and is not ruling out the possibility of allowing the use of weapons where future vessels engage in violence when resisting arrest.
The captain of a Chinese fishing vessel was shot dead during a similar incident in 2014 and in 2011 a Korean Coast Guard officer was killed in a fracas with Chinese fishermen.
[Image via The Hankyoreh]