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(LEAD) Seoul says its response to illegal fishing is legitimate

All Headlines 21:38 October 12, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS slug, headline, lead, throughout with comments from Seoul foreign ministry official; EXPANDS dateline)

SEOUL/BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's response to Chinese boats illegally fishing in its waters is in full compliance with international and domestic rules, a foreign ministry official said Wednesday, as China lodged a complaint against Seoul's plan to crack down on lawbreakers.

Defining the recent ramming of its Coast Guard boat by a Chinese fishing vessel as a "challenge to its governmental authority," the foreign ministry official, who declined to be named, made clear South Korea has been exercising rights guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Following the incident, Seoul said it will actively use force, including crew-served weapons, against boats and fishermen that violently interfere with the authorities' execution of their duties.

The remarks were made shortly after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang demanded Seoul to respond calmly to the incident where a 4.5-ton Coast Guard speedboat was sunk during an operation when a 100-ton Chinese vessel intentionally rear-ended it.

During a regular press briefing, the Chinese spokesman said the fray occurred in a zone where Chinese boats were allowed to fish.

South Korea's decision to strengthen law enforcement, even authorizing the use of firearms, is not a fundamental solution to the problem and will only cause more trouble, Geng Shuang added.

The South Korean official, meanwhile, rebutted Beijing's claims that the sinking took place in "neutral" waters. He pointed out that the Coast Guard had been chasing the Chinese fishing vessel, which allowed them to flee to waters where the sinking took place, but they were inside South Korea's exclusive economic zone when they were fishing illegally.

The exchange of words comes as China has consistently been trying to downplay the illegal issue and even urging South Korea to show more restraint.

A number of Chinese fishing boats that were caught while operating illegally in Korea's exclusive zone are moored at a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Oct. 10, 2016. The growing seriousness of the problem from such illegal activities was reinforced on Oct. 7 when a Chinese boat intentionally collided and sank a South Korean Coast Guard vessel that was trying to stop illegal fishing. (Yonhap)


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