SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean coastguard was stabbed to death by a Chinese fisherman on Monday in an operation to apprehend a Chinese vessel operating illegally near South Korean waters, a South Korean official said.
Two South Koreans were stabbed in the operation in the Yellow Sea off the west coast near the border with North Korea, the coastguard said.
Chinese fishing boats are frequently caught fishing in South Korean waters, sometimes leading to violent clashes with South Korean maritime police.
“One officer is dead. There is another one injured. There are no other injuries,” a coastguard officer said. “It happened in the EEZ (exclusive economic zone), outside the territorial waters, but it’s still illegal fishing.”
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the coastguard had seized the vessel and nine sailors on board.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said that Beijing was “currently clarifying the situation.”
“China is willing to closely coordinate with South Korea on this and work hard to deal with it appropriately,” Liu told a news briefing. “We also hope the South Korean side can properly protect the legitimate rights of Chinese fishermen and treat them in a humane way.”
“We are willing to work with South Korea to promote the continued healthy development of fishing cooperation between the two sides.”
South Korea’s foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador.
South Korea last month vowed a crackdown on illegal fishing by Chinese fishing boats in its EEZ.
Some 2,600 Chinese fishing boats have been caught illegally fishing in the South Korean EEZ since 2006 and nearly 800 Chinese fishermen have been arrested, Yonhap reported.
In the first 11 months of this year, some 440 Chinese fishing boats were caught illegally fishing in South Korean waters, up 46 percent from a year earlier, it said.
Reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul and Ben Blanchard in Beijing.; Writing by Jeremy Laurence. Editing by Ron Popeski