Korean Forces Fire Shots to Chase Off Fishing Boats
On Tuesday, Korea Coast Guard forces fired warning shots with a machine gun to ward off a group of Chinese fishing boats, which were attempting to interfere with an arrest.
The Coast Guard told Korean media that its officers had been attempting to seize two Chinese fishing vessels off Incheon when 30 Chinese boats surrounded them. Faced with a confrontational and potentially dangerous situation, the Coast Guard fired warning shots into the air with an M-60 machine gun.
It was the first time that Korea Coast Guard forces have used new, toughened rules of engagement allowing the use of crew-served weapons.
The tactic was reportedly effective; the officers completed the arrest and brought the two Chinese crews and their vessels back to Incheon for processing. No injuries, fatalities or equipment damage were reported.
Over the past few years, Chinese fishing interests have increased their presence near the line of demarcation between North and South Korea. Chinese vessels regularly cross over into South Korean waters to fish illegally, prompting diplomatic protests from Seoul but few penalties from within China. Beijing has expressed the view that Korean enforcement actions are excessive and endanger the well-being of its citizens. On the water, frequent confrontations have led to the deaths of Korean coastguardsmen and Chinese fishermen alike.
Last month, a Coast Guard speedboat was rammed and sunk by a Chinese fishing vessel during an interdiction, forcing one servicemember over the side. Senior officials decided to allow the wider use of firearms shortly after this incident.
In addition to driving off fleets and arresting crews, South Korean law enforcement forces often confiscate Chinese fishing vessels, then return them to their owners upon receipt of a fine. Korea Portal reports that on Tuesday, the Gunsan Maritime Police announced that it would be selling a confiscated boat for scrap in order to prevent it from returning to the business of illegal fishing. The decision is intended to send a message to vessel owners.
Indonesian authorities have recently taken an even more drastic approach to deterrence: under the leadership of Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, the nation’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has taken to blowing up dozens of confiscated vessels at a time.