Another trawler clash with a foreign coast guard patrol boat. This one fatal and, unlike the incident in September that turned relations with Japan acrimonious, not in disputed waters.
Reports say that a trawler rammed a South Korean coast guard vessel in an effort to help a fleet of some 50 trawlers fishing in South Korean waters off the southern South Korean city of Gunsan to flee back to Chinese waters. The fisherman and the coast guards came to blows before the ramming boat sank. Eight of its crew were rescued from the water but one later died. At least one more is reported missing. Chinese and South Korean rescue boats have been dispatched to the area.
Chinese trawlers are frequently detained for fishing illegally in the South Korean part of the Yellow Sea as they expand their fishing grounds — 300 a year, according to South Korean authorities. A South Korean coast guard died in a similar incident in 2008. There is no suggestion at this point that this latest incident was a deliberate testing of the limits of Beijing’s self-declared economic zone off its coast, and relations between Beijing and Seoul are on a sounder footing than those between Beijing and Toyko were last September, but the Yellow Sea is turning out to be dangerous waters in a multitude of respects.