China's Bullying Serves Nobody's Interests

      December 23, 2010 12:42

      China wants compensation from Korea for an incident last week in which a Chinese trawler sank off the coast of Gunsan in the West Sea after ramming a South Korean Coast Guard ship to obstruct a search on suspicion of illegal fishing in South Korean waters. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on Tuesday, "South Korea should do its best to search for the missing crewman and severely punish those responsible." She added Seoul should also "compensate for damage done to the Chinese fishermen and take thorough measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents." The offender is blaming the victim.

      Footage aired on TV will surely have alerted China to the violence Chinese fishermen perpetrated against South Korean coast guards who were trying to stop them from fishing in South Korea's exclusive economic zone. This has been happening for years. The latest incident started when the Coast Guard vessel ordered a Chinese trawler to stop as it was suspected of fishing in the EEZ without permit. The crew of the Chinese trawler wielded metal pipes and shovels to stop the coast guards from boarding and fled. When the Coast Guard vessel pursued it, another Chinese trawler from the same fishing company rammed the Coast Guard ship and sank.

      The captain of the trawler died, one crewmember remains missing, and four maritime police officers were injured. Korea and China signed an agreement back in 2001 authorizing their maritime police to inspect foreign vessels fishing inside their exclusive economic zones and to pursue those that flee to neutral waters. International laws also authorize such actions.

      Korea is willing to conduct a joint investigation with the Chinese. But although Beijing has shown little interest in investigating the incident, it is suddenly blaming Seoul and demanding compensation. This is behavior unworthy of a country which claims to be a global superpower rivaling the U.S. 

      China is resorting to the same heavy-handed tactics it used to punish Japan over a similar incident where a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Japanese Coast Guard ship near the disputed Senkaku (or Diaoyu) Islands in September. It peevishly halted shipments of rare earth to Japan to get Tokyo to free the ship's captain. Such behavior only reinforces suspicions that China is unfit to be treated as a global heavyweight. If it continues to behave this way, it will only strengthen the impression that it is a brute without regard for international laws. Would that really benefit its national interests?

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