South Korea on Tuesday summoned China’s ambassador to protest what it says was the ramming and sinking of a South Korean coast guard vessel by Chinese fishing boats. The sinking happened Friday when coast guard officers were trying to stop about 40 Chinese fishing boats from suspected illegal fishing off South Korea’s west coast. No casualties were reported, according to the coast guard.
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 other coast guard officers had boarded a Chinese boat for an inspection, the coast guard said in a statement. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned the Chinese ambassador, Qiu Guohong, and complained about the sinking. On Sunday, the ministry summoned the Chinese consul general, according to ministry officials.
Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that Chinese authorities were still verifying the situation but urged South Korea to remain calm. South Korean media reported that coast guard officers fired shots at the fishing boats and into the sky as the boats approached the South Korean vessel.
Coast guard officials said Tuesday that they can confirm that warning shots were fired into the sky, but said they were still investigating if any were fired at the Chinese boats.
The coast guard said the vessel that was sunk, at 4.5 tons, was dispatched from a larger ship to inspect the fishing boats. It said one of the Chinese boats was much larger at 100 tons. 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.