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(2nd LD) S. Korea continues crackdown on Chinese fishing in neutral waters

All News 20:39 June 11, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS political parties' response in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military resumed its crackdown operations near the tense sea border with North Korea Saturday as the country stepped up efforts to drive out illegal Chinese fishing there during the peak season for blue crabs.

On Friday, four South Korean boats carrying military police officers entered the neutral waters where the estuary of the Han River meets the Yellow Sea 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.

The crackdown team was again sent into the region early Saturday, the JCS said in a press release.

Military 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.

"Today's operation focused on blocking the Chinese vessels' course toward the South Korean side," the JCS said.

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.

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.

The ruling and opposition parties called on the government in unison to step up its crackdown on illegal fishing by Chinese boats and craft diplomatic countermeasures.

In a statement, the ruling Saenuri Party said that Chinese boats' illegal fishing has "gone too far" and reached a point where it could threaten the livelihood of Korean fishermen by overfishing.

"Chinese authorities should not just think about the safety of their people but also demonstrate a sincere attitude as a responsible country in the international community," Kim Myung-yeon, a party spokesperson, said.

"Our government should not stop with such an instant measure as the crackdown operation but come up with fundamental countermeasures aimed at inducing diplomatic talks with China through cooperation with the U.N.," he added.

The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea also issued a statement in which it welcomed the latest crackdown operation but urged the government to intensify its efforts to "protect the right to life of our fishermen in the Yellow Sea."


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