Seoul warns of tougher stance on illegal fishing

Chinese fishing boats that were seized after being caught operating illegally in South Korea's exclusive waters moored at a port in Incheon, South Korea. The South Korean coast guard plans to relax its rules on the use of firearms.
Chinese fishing boats that were seized after being caught operating illegally in South Korea's exclusive waters moored at a port in Incheon, South Korea. The South Korean coast guard plans to relax its rules on the use of firearms.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SEOUL • South Korea's coast guard has warned of a "more aggressive" firearms policy towards Chinese fishing boats illegally operating in its waters, following a clash in which one of its vessels sank.

In Sunday's incident, a coast guard vessel capsized after it was rammed by an escaping Chinese trawler. There were no casualties, but Seoul's foreign ministry yesterday summoned China's ambassador to South Korea to lodge a protest and demand "swift action".

A South Korean deputy foreign minister told the ambassador that the incident was "a challenge to public power", ministry spokesman Cho June Hyuck said.

China's foreign ministry said it was still verifying details of the incident. "We hope South Korea can start from the perspective of the broader situation in bilateral relations and calmly and rationally handle the relevant issue," a spokesman told a regular press briefing.

The coast guard warned of eased restrictions on the use of weapons during such altercations. "Now... we will take a more aggressive stance in using them when our officers are in danger," senior coast guard official Lee Chun Jae told reporters. Current rules on firearms use had a "limited scope" and will be revised, he added.

"We will actively respond to Chinese fishing boats that obstruct justice by using all possible means if needed, such as directly hitting and gaining control of those Chinese fishing boats as well as firing common weapons," Mr Lee also said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Seoul warns of tougher stance on illegal fishing'. Print Edition | Subscribe