Tuesday, December 21, 2010

China's Aggressive Fishing Boats

Two days ago the BBC reported on yet another incident involving illegal fishing activities by Chinese fishermen, and yet again a Chinese boat rammed a Coast Guard ship.

You may recall that recently Japan and China were in a huge diplomatic spat after the Japanese Coast Guard arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel. In the China-Japan incident, the Chinese boat was fishing near islands which both China and Japan claim--but which Japan clearly controls. When the Japanese Coast Guard confronted the Chinese boat, the Chinese captain twice steered his boat into Japanese ships. Japan detained the Chinese crew members, then fairly quickly released all except for the captain. China bitched and demanded damages. Then China arrested two Japanese businessmen on the Mainland and halted exports of rare metals. Japan caved and released the Chinese captain.

Now back to the more recent incident. This time the territory is not in dispute; it is clearly South Korea's exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 miles from the low-water mark of South Korea's shore. The South Korean Coast Guard observed a whole bunch of Chinese boats fishing in the South Korean EEZ, and of course Korea had the right to make the Chinese fishermen stop their activities. One Chinese boat, however, thought it necessary to attack the Korean Coast Guard, apparently to help the other Chinese boats escape. The Chinese fishermen took up steel pipes and struck at the Korea Coast Guardsmen. Then, after the Chinese boat rammed the Korean ship, the Chinese boat capsized.

The Korea Coast Guard seems to have gone to great lengths to save the Chinese fishermen. The Korean side even launched helicopters to search for missing fishermen. One would think that the Chinese government would be at least slightly embarrassed and grateful for Korea's efforts.

Wrong. And that's what pisses me off about this incident.

China had demanded that South Korea pay for the sunken fishing boat! Despite Korea's efforts to find the missing fishermen, China has apparently "required" Korea to make "all-out efforts" to find the fishermen. And despite Korea's rights, i.e. sovereignty over the fish in its EEZ, China has demanded that Korea "take concrete efforts to prevent such instances from reoccurring."

So let me get this straight... Chinese fishermen illegally fish in Korea's EEZ, attack the Korean Coast Guard with pipes, ram a Korea ship, and sink their own boat. Then Korea goes to great lengths to save the Chinese fishermen. Then China demands compensation and for Korea to prevent this from happening again? That makes no sense. The Chinese government is being completely ridiculous.

Sadly, this is just one more stupid assertion by the Chinese on top of months of silly foreign policy. China really must be trying to alienate everybody in Japan and South Korea. I mean, the Chinese are apparently OK with North Korea's launching a torpedo and sinking a South Korean ship, killing all the sailors on board. China is OK with North Korea's shelling a South Korean island on which civilians live, killing several. China is not only OK with its fishermen entering both hotly disputed territories and clearly undisputed foreign sovereign territories, but when these fishermen attack foreign Coast Guard ships, the Chinese demand compensation from the other governments!

It really is time for the foreign ministers of these countries to call out the Chinese and make clear that Chinese intransigence will no longer be tolerated.

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