Freed boat to continue fishing in Yellow Sea

Updated: 2013-05-22 03:21

By PU ZHENDONG (China Daily)

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Incident was a 'violent robbery' of fishermen's property, experts say

The private Chinese fishing boat freed by Pyongyang this morning after 12 days of detention will continue its operations in China's waters off the Yellow Sea, its owner said on Tuesday.

Yu Xuejun, who was not on board, said that all the fishermen are safe and are returning without ransom having been paid to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The boat's captain called Yu on Tuesday afternoon, telling him that armed personnel from the DPRK had restricted the sailors' freedom and stolen tons of diesel fuel.

"Instead of heading back to Dalian (in Liaoning province), the boat will continue fishing until the fishing moratorium in June," Yu said, adding that other Chinese ships will help with supplies. China's Foreign Ministry confirmed the release at a news conference on Tuesday, and urged Pyongyang to make thorough investigations into the seizure and provide explanations to China.

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that various parties made concerted efforts to facilitate the release as the Chinese government and public were greatly concerned over the incident. China demands the DPRK take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of such an incident, Hong said.

Experts said the seizure of the boat was neither an accident nor an act of overzealous law enforcement, but a violent robbery of Chinese fishermen's property, given that the boat was fishing within Chinese maritime territory.

This is not the first seizure of Chinese fishing boats by the DPRK. In May 2012, three Chinese boats with 29 fishermen on board were hijacked and detained for two weeks by Pyongyang and accused of "fishing beyond borders".

The DPRK was reported to have sought a ransom of $190,000 before freeing the fishermen, citing its consideration of China-DPRK relations.

Observers said maritime borders between China and the DPRK have not been officially drawn, and these gray areas in the Yellow Sea can partially explain fishing frictions.

Gong Keyu, an Asia-Pacific studies researcher at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said that whether it is cross-border fishing on China's side or cross-border law enforcement on the DPRK's remains to be investigated, but the incidents suggest overlapping maritime boundaries that need to be addressed.

Gong said Chinese fishing boats have to steer into border waters because fishery resources in the Yellow Sea have been declining rapidly due to pollution and overfishing.

Zhang Liangui, a Korean studies researcher at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said: "In the spirit of safeguarding Chinese fishermen's rights, Beijing should set clear and well-observed rules with the DPRK about the maritime borders to prevent similar incidents from occurring."

The Liaoning Generic Fishing No 25222, with 16 sailors on board, was seized by an armed DPRK vessel on May 5 in Chinese waters in the Yellow Sea. The DPRK was reported to have called Yu eight times demanding a 600,000 yuan ($98,000) ransom. Yu first publicized the boat's seizure on his micro blog late on Saturday, asking for help from Internet users and the Foreign Ministry.