Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - Page 5 News List

South Korea asks China for embassy security guarantees

Reuters, BEIJING and SEOUL

South Korea said yesterday that it had asked China for security guarantees at its Beijing embassy after the building was hit by a small projectile as tensions run high after the killing of a South Korean coast guard by a Chinese fisherman.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it was unclear what kind of weapon was used to fire the shot that cracked one of the embassy’s windows on Tuesday afternoon, but that no one was injured.

A ministry official in Seoul, who asked not to be identified, said the incident occurred between 12:30pm and 1:30pm on Tuesday and that an investigation was under way.

“The [South] Korean embassy has sent a letter to authorities requesting them to protect the mission and identify the reason for the incident,” the official said.

In a report from Beijing, South Korea’s Yonhap news quoted sources as saying the metal ball was likely fired from an air gun, as no one testified to hearing a gunshot.

An embassy official said it was difficult to comment on what kind of weapon, if any, had been used, but as there is another building between the glass and the street outside, “a shot would have to have been fired from an upper floor” of a building.

He declined to provide further details.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin (劉為民) said authorities were taking the embassy incident “very seriously.”

“As far as we know, from the initial evaluation and from the on-site inspection, the South Korea Embassy had its window glass broken and has not been attacked,” Liu told a news briefing. “At present, the Chinese side has taken relevant measures, and will send more police and enhance the security patrols to increase the protection of the embassy.”

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called on Tuesday for “strong” measures to ensure the safety of coast guard officers cracking down on illegal Chinese fishermen amid a public uproar over the stabbing death of an officer on Monday.

Chinese boats are frequently caught illegally fishing in the Yellow Sea, an area rich with mackerel and crabs, and there have been a number of clashes with South Korean maritime police.

Beijing has expressed its regret over the incident, but initially was unapologetic, calling on Seoul to protect the rights of the detained fishermen.

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