The Chinese government on Tuesday officially expressed regret over the killing of a Korean coast guard by the skipper of a Chinese trawler that was fishing illegally in Korean waters.
"It was an unfortunate incident," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters. "China regrets that the incident caused the death of a South Korean coast guard officer."
"Currently the relevant authorities in China and Korea are in close communication on investigating this situation. China is ready to work closely with South Korea to properly settle the issue," he added.
Korean Ambassador to Beijing Lee Kyu-hyung said, "The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Agriculture Ministry expressed regret and condolences over the death through diplomatic channels."
The officer was killed and another wounded on Monday when they were stabbed with a piece of broken glass by the skipper while trying to board his trawler.
Korea and China are now mulling a high-level consultative body to tackle the problem of thousands of Chinese fishing boats that regularly fish illegally in Korean waters, according to a Korean government official. The Chinese government is "well aware of the seriousness" of the situation and "positive" about launching the bilateral body, he added.
It could be headed by vice foreign ministers or assistant foreign ministers and include fishery, justice, police, and consular officials from the two sides.
In a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, President Lee Myung-bak told ministers to "work out strong and substantial measures to prevent recurrence of such unfortunate incidents" and formulate a special budget and reinforce personnel and equipment of the Coast Guard.
A senior presidential official said the case "may affect" Lee's planned visit to Beijing.