South Korea will shoot at Chinese boats fishing illegally, says coastguard

© Arun Sanksr
Violent confrontations could escalate between South Korea and Chinese boats found fishing in its waters after the US ally sanctioned a greater use of force, including the use of firearms, to control its sea border.

The threat of lethal force comes as China publically berated the US over its operations close to artificial islands Beijing has built in the South China Sea, and its plan to deploy a missile defense system to South Korea.

China’s ambassador was summoned by South Korean officials to protest the latest clash off the Korean peninsula’s west coast, in which a coastguard patrol boat sank last week after being rammed by a Chinese fishing vessel. There were no reported casualties.

Three Chinese fishermen were killed last month when a fire broke out on their boat after a South Korean coastguard threw flash grenades into their cabin.

In response to the frequent skirmishes, South Korean coastguard officials announced on Tuesday they would authorize the use of handguns and onboard cannon to attack Chinese vessels they deem threatening.

“We will actively respond to Chinese fishing boats that obstruct justice by using all possible means if needed such as directly hitting and gaining control of those Chinese fishing boats as well as firing common weapons,” South Korea’s deputy coastguard chief, Lee Choon-jae, told a news conference.

South Korea is drawing significantly upon US military support in an effort to limit both Chinese territorial expansion in the South China Sea and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.

Speaking at a summit in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanguan criticized US interventions in the region.

“Some countries seek absolute military superiority, ceaselessly strengthen their military alliances, and seek their own absolute security at the costs of other countries’ security,” Chang told academics and defense officials.

China is particularly concerned about Washington and Seoul’s decision this year to install a THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.

Both Beijing and Moscow argue the move will destabilize regional security.

Also speaking at the Beijing summit, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said: “We are concerned about the attempts of certain nations to exploit the complex situation in the Korean peninsula … pumping this sub-region with clearly excessive defense capabilities.”

The decision has “aggravated regional tension” and “adds problems to solving the situation,” he said.