China Denies Responsibility in Trawler Clash

      December 23, 2010 10:51

      China is resorting to blunt denial over an incident where a Chinese fishing boat rammed a South Korean patrol boat that was trying to prevent it from illegally fishing in the South's exclusive economic zone.

      The 63-ton trawler Yaoyong 35432 ignored an order from the patrol boat to stop and fled to waters outside of Korea's EEZ. The Coast Guard exercised its right to pursue it under international maritime treaties, but the crew of the Chinese vessel attacked South Korean coast guards who tried to board it with steel rods, and another trawler, the Yaoyong 35403, sank after ramming the Coast Guard ship in an attempt to obstruct the search.

      A Coast Guard helicopter flies over Chinese trawlers suspected of illegal fishing in Korea’s Exclusive Economic Zone on Tuesday. /Courtesy of the Coast Guard

      "Obstructing the search and using violence against Coast Guard officers are illegal acts," a government official said. "We have video footage of the violations and evidence that the Chinese boat was fishing inside our EEZ."

      But China denies that the trawler fled and tried to obstruct the search and instead continues to stress only that the ship sank outside South Korea's EEZ.

      The incident recalls another in September, when a Chinese trawler clashed with a Japanese patrol boat near the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands in Chinese). China suspended rare earth shipments to Japan to get Tokyo to free the ship's captain. But while the Senkaku incident occurred in a disputed area, in the Korean incident it is much easier to distinguish which side violated fishing and international laws.

      "We exercised its rights to enforce the law," a government official said. "If China wishes, we are willing to let Chinese experts observe the Coast Guard investigation."

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