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S. Korea poised to resume crackdown on Chinese shipping in neutral waters

All News 11:15 June 11, 2016

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military stood poised on Saturday to resume its crackdown operations in the sea border with North Korea to drive out illegal Chinese fishing boats, a government official said Saturday.

Four South Korean boats carrying military police officers entered neutral waters where the estuary of the Han River meets the Yellow Sea a day earlier in South Korea's first joint crackdown operation with the United Nations Command since the border areas were declared a no man's land in the armistice which ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

June is a high season for catching blue crab in the largely untouched fishing ground, tempting Chinese fishermen to intrude into the militarily sensitive border areas between the Koreas.

The government officials said about 10 Chinese fishing boats that retreated into North Korea-controlled waters during the initial Friday operation still remained in the same place as of early Saturday.

"The military plans to resume the crackdown operation to stop the boats fishing at high tide if the boats come down to our side and start illegal fishing," the official said, asking not to be named.

South Korea has recently formed a crackdown team of four vessels with 24 military and coast guard forces and UNC Military Armistice Commission personnel as illegal Chinese fishing has soared in the sensitive border areas.

In the five months of 2016, Chinese fishing boats have been detected fishing in the neutral waters on around 520 occasions, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The armistice's annex governing civil shipping in neutral waters says no Korean or foreign ships are allowed except those that are officially registered with South or North Korea.

Military officials have said the crackdown operation will continue until the last Chinese fishing boat leaves the Han River estuary.

As the operation kicked off on Friday, China's foreign ministry pledged cooperation with South Korea to stop the illegal Chinese fishing.

"China puts great importance on educating its fisherman," said China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, adding that Beijing respects international treaties on fishing and the local laws of the countries where its fishermen operate.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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