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Chinese Fishing Boats Still Catching Crabs Near Korean Border

Crustaceans Sustainability Politics +3 more

SOUTH KOREA - Hundreds of Chinese fishing boats are still catching crabs in waters near the Yellow Sea border between South and North Korea, a military source said Friday, despite Beijing's agreement to have them stay away from the tense area.

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Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi promised in talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Sung-hwan, in New York to pull Chinese fishing boats out of waters around the Northern Limit Line, the de-facto sea border between the two Koreas, reports YonhapNewsAgency.

The agreement came as military tensions escalated in the area after North Korean fishing boats made a series of violations of the maritime boundary, with the South's Navy firing a barrage of warning shots last week to chase North Korean boats away.

"About 450 Chinese fishing boats have been catching crabs every day, even after September 24," when the agreement was reached, the military source said. "Chinese fishing boats have come close to the NLL in large numbers and are filling their nets with crabs."

The presence of Chinese fishing boats in the area fuels naval tensions between the two Koreas because South Korean patrol vessels maneuver to drive away Chinese boats coming close to the NLL, which in turn, forces North Korean patrol boats to maneuver in response.

North Korean fishing boats have been staying away from the border in the last several days apparently because of heightened tensions, and Chinese boats appear to be capitalizing on the chance to catch more crabs, the military source said.

"This could be either because the decision by the Chinese foreign affairs authorities has not yet been conveyed to the maritime authorities or because fishing boats are simply ignoring the order to withdraw from the region," another government official said.

Areas near the border have been the scene of a number of bloody inter-Korean clashes. The two sides fought naval gun-battles in the area in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, the North torpedoed a South Korean warship in the area and shelled a South Korean border island.

North Korea has never recognized the maritime boundary, which was drawn unilaterally by the US - led United Nations Command when the 1950-53 Korean War ended, and demands that the line be drawn further south.

The chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the recent series of NLL intrusions by North Korean boats show constant threats of provocation by the communist nation remain, and called for through preparedness against such possibilities.

"Our military has drastically bolstered its capabilities and readiness to sternly punish enemy provocations with teeth-gritting determination" since the North's sinking of a South Korean warship and the shelling of the South's border island of Yeonpyeong in 2010, Gen. Jung Seung-jo said.

"We have to be thoroughly prepared to get our system to work perfectly in case of enemy provocations," he said, during a ceremony to mark the 49th anniversary of the establishment of the JCS.