South Korea has been cracking down on Chinese trawlers illegally fishing in its waters, and the South Korean Coast Guard has been seizing hundreds of ships every year. The Chinese fishermen often resist arrest and are armed with primitive weapons, forcing the South Koreans to use rubber bullets to subdue them. On Tuesday, one such raid lead to the death of a Chinese fisherman, reports Bloomberg:
Yonhap News reported that a coast guard officer shot and killed the man during a raid on 30 Chinese boats fishing illegally in the area. A separate Korean-language Yonhap report said the fisherman was killed when he was hit by a rubber bullet.China filed a protest to South Korea and expressed “serious concern” over the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing in Beijing today. He said China demanded an investigation and wants South Korea to “take concrete measures to prevent violent law enforcement and similar incidents from happening again.’”
In 2008 and 2011, Chinese fishermen killed South Korean officers during similar raids, and in 2010, two Chinese died when their boat capsized after a collision. Further straining relations are China’s policy of sending North Korean defectors back across the border and a territorial dispute over a submerged rock, known as Leodo in Korean and Suyan Rock in Chinese. There is also disagreement over a Chinese citizen who threw Molotov cocktails at the Japanese embassy in Seoul, where he is currently being detained. Beijing wants South Korea to send him back to China, rather than on to Japan, where the man is also wanted for attempting to burn the controversial Yasukuni shrine.Meanwhile, Japan’s opposition leader Shinzo Abe just made a visit to that very shrine, adding more nationalistic fuel to the disputes between Japan and China.Territorial disputes, memories of war and oppression, and a quickly shifting balance of power make the China Seas one of the most politically volatile places on earth. In the early 20th century, the Balkans were famously nicknamed the “powder keg of Europe.” The China Seas may play that role for Asia in the future.