Armed North Koreans took control of several Chinese fishing vessels on Thursday. They are holding 29 Chinese fishermen hostage and demanding a ransom payment. It is not clear if they were operating on orders from Pyongyang or are just pirates.
Whether planned or not, it’s foolish for North Korea to provoke its only friend and benefactor in the region. For whatever reason, Pyongyang has yet to publicly respond to the hijacking. Reports in China suggest that a Chinese mafia organization might be responsible, and might have been collaborating with the North Korean military.
China is seeking to downplay the incident, labeling it a “fisheries case.” Pyongyang should appreciate that China does not want this to become a high-profile international argument.
Remember, this is China’s only real friend.