Chinese fisherman shot dead by South Korean coast guard

SEOUL (AFP) - A Chinese fisherman died on Friday following a clash in which live rounds were fired between the South Korean coastguard and a number of Chinese vessels suspected of illegal fishing, officials said.

"There was an incident during a crackdown on illegal fishing by Chinese fishing boats," a South Korean coastguard spokesman said. "Now one Chinese sailor is dead," the spokesman said, without elaborating.

Another coastguard official told AFP that live rounds and rubber bullets had been fired during the incident, which took place Friday morning around 130 kilometres off the western island of Wangdeung in the Yellow Sea.

The South's Yonhap news agency identified the dead man as a 45-year-old, surnamed Song, and said the coastguard had boarded his vessel in South Korea's exclusive economic zone. Song later complained of breathing problems and was taken to hospital at Mokpo on the mainland, Yonhap said.

An emergency ward staffer at the hospital told AFP that the man, who had a large contusion on his stomach, had been pronounced dead on arrival.

In an incident two years ago, a 44-year-old Chinese fisherman was fatally wounded by a rubber bullet after South Korean coastguard boarded his ship for illegal fishing.

China protested what it called an example of "violent law enforcement" and urged Seoul to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Illegal fishing by Chinese boats is common in South Korean waters, and scores of vessels are seized every year. In December 2010 a Chinese boat overturned and sank in the Yellow Sea after ramming a South Korean coastguard vessel. Two Chinese crewmen were killed. And the next year, a coastguard officer was stabbed to death in a struggle with Chinese sailors.