Seoul officials yesterday said they have lodged a formal complaint with Beijing accusing Chinese fishing boats of ramming and sinking a South Korean coast guard vessel.
The sinking happened on Friday when South Korean coast guard officers were trying to stop about 40 Chinese fishing boats from suspected illegal fishing off South Korea’s west coast. No causalities or injuries were reported, the Korea Coast Guard said.
One coast guard officer was on the South Korean vessel rammed by two Chinese boats before he jumped into the water and was rescued by his colleagues. Eight fellow coast guard officers boarded a Chinese boat for an inspection, the coast guard said in a statement.
On Sunday, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chinese consul-general and complained about the sinking.
The Chinese diplomat expressed regret over the incident, according to the South Korean ministry.
An official in Beijing said Chinese authorities were still verifying the situation, but urged South Korea to remain calm.
“We hope the South Korean side can bear in mind the large picture of the bilateral relationship and regional peace and handle the case reasonably with a level head,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said in a regular briefing.
South Korean media reported coast guard officers fired shots at Chinese fishing boats and into the sky as the boats approached the South Korean vessel.
South Korean coast guard officials yesterday confirmed that warning shots were fired into the sky, but said they do not know if any were fired at the Chinese boats, saying an investigation into the case was still underway.
Violent clashes have occurred in recent years between South Korea’s coast guard and Chinese fishing boats venturing farther from their increasingly barren home waters.
Late last month, three Chinese fishermen died after a fire erupted when South Korean coast guard officers threw “flashbang” grenades into their boat. Flashbang grenades are non-lethal devices that produce a blinding flash of light and loud sound.