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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on Oct. 11)

All News 07:11 October 11, 2016

Blow up pirates
Kid-glove response emboldens Chinese fishermen

On Friday, an unacceptable thing took place in the Korean exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Sea.

A fleet of Chinese fishing boats teamed up and rammed through a police boat, dispatched there to crack down on their illegal fishing.

Outnumbered, the Korean maritime police fled the scene and the Chinese escaped little damaged and sailed into their waters.

Chinese illegal fishing is one thing but our law being mocked in our own territory can't be tolerated any longer.

Russia had its warship bombard illegal Chinese fishing boats in 2012; Argentina sank a Chinese boat intruding its waters when it disobeyed orders, and Indonesia not only blew up Chinese fishing boats but also sank a commandeered illegal fishing boat, also Chinese, by drilling holes in the hull. Jakarta is said to have destroyed over 170 illegal fishing boats.

The government should stop its kid-glove response. After the Friday incident, it called in a Chinese consul general to lodge a protest. The presidential office went out of its way and expressed its regret over the incident. So far, as before, it is all talk, no action.

Obviously, relations with China have contributed to Seoul's vacillation. The world's second largest economy is Korea's biggest trading partner with its tourists accounting for the largest number of all foreign visitors. Korea's weak-kneed response is related to China's role in resolving North Korea's nuclear brinkmanship. Already, China has flexed its muscles by reducing K-pop events when Korea decided to deploy a U.S. missile interceptor against North Korean missiles, ignoring Beijing's pleas.

This summer Chinese illegal fishing in the West Sea crested and the government called in the Navy to work with maritime police but their joint operations ended up as a half-hearted demonstration to ease angry public opinion.

It's time to get bold and discipline the bull in the china shop. In their fishing talks, Beijing failed to promise concrete efforts on fishing piracy, claiming that they had little to do with it. If the Chinese can't, we ought to do it. These are our waters and a failure to act promptly and forcibly can be seen as a dereliction of duty by us to protect our sovereignty.

The Friday incident also captures a dangerous evolution of China's illegal fishing against Korea's law enforcement.

Two maritime ships were dispatched to the area 7.2km inside our EEZ and 80km south of Socheong Island at 2:10 p.m. Friday. Two fast boats were launched from one ship. Eight of nine policemen on board one boat climbed onto one Chinese fishing boat. Then, a Chinese boat hit the boat from behind and sank it. One left on board was rescued by the other boat, which also retrieved the eight before fleeing back to its mother ship. "A 100-ton Chinese boat hit our boat that weighs four tons 10 meters from behind," a boat crew member was quoted as saying. "It's nothing less than attempted murder."

These law officers should be given greater freedom to use lethal weapons in self-protective measures at least. The government should also positively consider the formation of a special unit to uproot illegal Chinese fishing once and for all. If these efforts fail, we also should consider the Indonesian option as well.

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