Coast guard shoots at Chinese boats fishing illegally in Korean waters
By Kang Ji-Hyun
The South Korean coast guard fired a machine gun to scare off 44 Chinese vessels fishing illegally in Korean waters Tuesday, in a confrontation that lasted over five hours.
The Korea Coast Guard’s West Sea division spotted the large group of 60-80 ton vessels flying Chinese flags 98 kilometers west of Gageodo Island in Sinan-gun, South Jeolla Province, early Tuesday.
The boats were illegally fishing in Korea’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and four coast guard patrol boats were called in to deal with them.
Korean coast guards used loudspeakers at 9:15 a.m. to warn off the Chinese boats. Most were illegal and non-registered and had their names erased. But the Chinese vessels, in groups of five to six, did not budge. Some were shielded by iron gratings.
The coast guard then fired water cannon and non-lethal sponge bullets to shift the boats, without success. Six of the vessels then motored toward a 1,500-ton Korean patrol boat in an apparent hostile move.
A M60 heavy machine gun, K2 rifles and sponge bullets were then enlisted to scare away the Chinese. Some 250 rounds were fired but the fishing vessels did not leave the area until 2:43 p.m., five and a half hours after the confrontation began.
The Korea Coast Guard reported the incident on Wednesday, without mentioning if there were any casualties.
Chinese fishing vessels have often infiltrated South Korean waters, causing violent standoffs. Some Korean coast guard officers have been injured by Chinese sailors armed with knives.
The latest clash was the third this year that live ammunition was used. About 900 rounds were fired in February and 150 on Dec. 4.
Live ammunition can be used if coast guard vessels are attacked or three warnings ignored.