China condemns Russia for detaining fishermen

BEIJING (Reuters) - China called an urgent meeting with Russia in Beijing on Thursday, condemning its coastguard days after it fired on Chinese fishing boats and detained dozens of fishermen who had entered its exclusive economic zone.

A Russian coastguard vessel on Tuesday fired warning shots at Chinese fishing vessels, then opened targeted fire to stop one trawler that had been fishing for squid in Russia’s far eastern Primorsky region.

It later detained 36 fishermen and two fishing vessels.

“China is strongly dissatisfied with Russia’s rough law enforcement and use of military force to seize Chinese fishing boats,” Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told the acting head of Russia’s mission in Beijing, according to a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

Cheng demanded that Russia investigate the incident, which left one fisherman missing, the statement said. Earlier Russian news reports said no one was killed or wounded during the incident.

It was not the first time Russia’s coastguards have fired on Chinese trawlers and detained them for poaching fish in Russian waters, but such confrontations are rare.

Russia has watched cautiously as Beijing has emerged as a regional power, engaging it as a trading and diplomatic partner but wary of it as a potential rival for control of resources in Russia’s thinly populated eastern stretches.

Russia has increased its economic and military investment in its Far East and strengthened its political presence there, creating a ministry to oversee the region in order to counter China’s influence.

China has had recent run-ins with neighboring countries over its fishing vessels. In April, two Chinese maritime surveillance ships prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting eight Chinese fishing boats near Scarborough Shoal in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Daniel Magnowski