President Lee Myung-bak and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao will agree next week to set up a bilateral body that will discuss how to stop illegal Chinese fishing in Korean waters. The two meet in Beijing on Monday.
The consultative body, to be headed by assistant foreign ministers, will consist of coast guard officers, fisheries officials and others and meet twice a year to discuss ways of preventing armadas of Chinese trawlers from illegally fishing in South Korean waters.
The issue has created bad blood between the two countries after Chinese fishermen attacked Korean coast guards who tried to stop them. One Coast Guard commando was killed by a Chinese fisherman.
First Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-hwan proposed the consultative body to his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun during an annual bilateral strategic dialogue in Seoul on Dec. 27. The two governments reportedly reached agreement in the process of fine-tuning the agenda for Lee's state visit next week.
But government officials have their doubts. A senior presidential official said, "The reality is that even the Chinese government has no idea how many Chinese trawlers are engaged in illegal fishing in Korean waters" and the government will separately have to keep enforcing the law.
Lee's visit to China marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He is also expected to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's sudden death, the resumption of six-party nuclear disarmament talks, and bilateral free trade talks.